Countdown to new school build

Education Secretary Michael Gove with headteacher Maurice Hall in 2010.
Education Secretary Michael Gove with headteacher Maurice Hall in 2010.

Construction on Alnwick’s long-awaited new high school could start before the end of this year.

The scheme to rebuild the Duchess’s Community High School at Greensfield, to the south of the town, will be shifting into top gear over the next few months.

It follows the award of the contract for all 12 schools in the North East being funded through the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) to Miller Construction and means that a start date for building in Alnwick has been set for between December this year and February 2015.

This would mean a final handover of the new school in August 2016 for the start of the academic year that September.

Headteacher Maurice Hall described it as ‘exciting times’ as the school looks ahead to a new, purpose-built building with everything on one site, having long dealt with the split between premises on Howling Lane and Bailiffgate.

It has been a long road to this point and it was just over two years ago – May 2012 – that Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that the Duchess’s was one of 261 schools across the country which would be rebuilt through the PSBP.

Last autumn, representatives from the school, county council and Education Funding Agency worked on a design brief before the bidding process began.

Now, it is hoped that designs and plans will be finalised over the next two months before a planning application is submitted in August.

The school is keen to engage with the community over the plans, although the design is limited by a framework agreed for all the new North East schools to help keep costs down.

All being well, planning consents, private-finance agreements and contracts will be signed off by November.

From now until October, the school will also be working on issues such as the provision of equipment and furniture, room layouts and the process of moving into the new school.

As reported in the Gazette last week, work on the access road into the site, including a new roundabout on Willowburn Avenue, is provisionally set to start on Monday, June 16.

When the Duchess’s does reopen in its new home in 2016, the pupils will be dressed differently.

Following consultation, the school has decided to go ahead with a uniform change, which will see Year 9 to 11 students wear white shirts, ties and black V-neck jumpers with a crest.

As well as reflecting the school’s ‘new beginning’, it was felt that the current uniform had served its purpose, was becoming increasingly poor quality in terms of materials used and that the shift mirrored a national trend for smarter, more traditional uniforms.