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Facelift proposed for Gillotts School
Published 27/03/14

MULTI-MILLION pound development plans for Gillotts School have been unveiled.

Governors of the Henley secondary school are considering selling part of the playing fields for housing in order to fund the improvements.

The plans include a new, larger hall, a creative technologies centre and a learning support centre. The school also hopes to refurbish its science block, improve its sports facilities and move its car park off site.

The development would be paid for by selling about 3.4 acres of land on the eastern edge of the school site, which the governors say could accommodate 80 to 85 homes.

The site was put forward for possible development as part of the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

David Gorsuch, chairman of governors, said the plan offered the academy school the potential to realise its vision.

He said: “We thought now is the right time to publicise the things we want to do for the school and the things the school deserves.

“It’s a teaching and learning environment that’s appropriate for a first-class community secondary school in the 21st century. The school itself is, I would say, already first class; it already delivers great teaching and learning. We want to make sure the school buildings and facilities are at an optimum standard for doing that.”

Last month, Gillotts presented its plans to the neighbourhood plan housing working group.

Mr Gorsuch said: “It’s up to them whether they put our land in the plan, recognising the constraints we have to work under.”

The school would also have to obtain the Education Secretary’s approval to sell the land, which is currently made up of two football pitches. The sale would require a statutory six-week consultation period for stakeholders, including the Henley community, which the school envisages will begin in the summer.

Mr Gorsuch wouldn’t speculate on the value of the land but said: “The amount we could sell it for would allow us to achieve quite a lot of things we would like to achieve.”

Gillotts insists the sale would not reduce its sports facilities and the pitches would be relocated within the school site.

“We are not doing this to prop things up,” said Mr Gorsuch. “We have to be able to make a material difference otherwise it’s not appropriate to sell the land.

“We’re comfortable we can provide the same level of sporting provision on the smaller total school estate area that we would have after selling the portion of land.”

The redevelopment work could take three years and Mr Gorsuch said: “The summer holidays are crucial because we would have to do the invasive and disruptive work during those times.”

The new hall would have flexible, retractable seating and could accommodate a full year group, even if the school got bigger. It would also provide space for performance art as well as assemblies, parents’ evenings and exams.

The creative technologies centre would integrate teaching facilities for computing with food technology, textiles, art and design.

Gillotts says the learning support centre would enable the school’s more vulnerable and disadvantaged students to achieve their potential.

The science block could be extended and refurbished while moving the car park off site would, the school says, improve safety.

Sports facilities would be re-arranged to make better use of the playing fields. A new floodlit, all-weather multi-use games area would provide better overall facilities than the school has now.

The school also wants to refurbish all its buildings to bring them up to modern standards and to move its reception.

In 2008, Gillotts planned a £30 million rebuild under a government investment programme but it was not included in the Oxfordshire education authority’s application for funding.

At the time, headteacher Catharine Darnton said the school was heading for a “catastrophic failure” due to the poor quality of its buildings, warning they were “actually going to fall down”.

The school became an academy in January 2012, meaning it is no longer under the control of the council.

In April last year, it received a £450,000 government grant for the refurbishment of its gym and a new roof on the design technology block.

Published 27/03/14

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