Posted: 07.05.21 at 08:00 by Ellyn Wright
Pupils and staff at Whitmore High School have moved into their new building, four months ahead of schedule.
The Barry school has been transformed as part of a £30.5 million project under the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s 21st Century Schools programme, a partnership with Welsh Government that involves comprehensive upgrading of educational infrastructure across the County.
Accommodating 1,100 pupils, the work, carried out by Morgan Sindall Construction, has created an ultra-modern learning environment with state-of-the-art facilities.
Innes Robinson, head of school, was excited to welcome pupils back to school and onto the new site.
“The pupils are walking in and asking ‘is this all for us?’ and that’s the key message, that they are worth investing in, that they are valued,” he said.
“To have these spaces where we can be together again is incredible.”
Extra-curricular activities will be scheduled into the school day, with pupils being offered a choice of eight clubs.
“Not only is school about being safe and happy, and achieving good grades to set you up in life, it’s also about finding your passion,” said Mr Robinson.
“Having these opportunities will help pupils gain confidence and find what they love and in turn improves their school experience.”
Chair of Governors Antonia Forte said being in the new building “felt very special”.
“There’s lots of opportunities here and that's something that governors really appreciate and support.
“Why shouldn't the children who come to Whitmore High, or Pencoedtre for that matter, have the same opportunities as if they were going to other schools in the county?
“The building is the showcase, but the standard of teaching during the pandemic and the blended learning has really been important.”
Teaching space is spread across three storeys, with 70 general classrooms and two drama and activity studios encompassed within the 11,000-metre square site.
The building also includes a new sports hall, a facility that at the old site was separated from the rest of the school.
An all-weather pitch for rugby, football and hockey will also be shared by Whitmore High, Pencoedtre and Bro Morgannwg.
Other outdoor space includes a central courtyard designated for group learning and informal use.
There is also a music studio, fitted with the latest equipment, a multifunctional hall with retractable seating and a large dining area and a specialist Autism Support base.
The support base allows pupils with autism flexibility between mainstream classes and the supported area.
Mr Robinson said he was expected 10 pupils to join this base in May, and a further 10 by September.
Vale of Glamorgan Council Cabinet Member for Education and Regeneration Cllr Lis Burnett said:
“The facilities cater for the spectrum of needs. Where we can, we want to support pupils to be with their peers.
“The whole school was built with the children in mind. Between the three schools being developed in our 21st Century Schools programme, they're all different because they're built with each school’s culture in mind.
“I'm really pleased that we don't do a ‘one size fits all’. We talked through what is special and what works for the school,” she said.
The move allows for the demolition of the existing buildings and creation of new sport facilities, with the total project due for completion by spring 2022.