£4.75m school expansion proving a real education for pupils

Current pupils at a Nottingham special school have been learning about the building trade as part of a major expansion of the site.

Westbury School, in Bilborough, is approaching the final stages of a £4.75m expansion funded by Nottingham City Council to add a further 60 primary and secondary places by summer 2018.

Work started on the Chingford Road site in May last year and will see the school double in size to 120 places. The project has included a refurbishment of some existing classrooms, new buildings created and a revamp of a science room and staff room.

The expansion has been carried out by Wates Construction and as part of the works, pupils from Westbury have been able to join workshops to learn more about the process.

Fifteen-year-old Gabriel Newell has taken a great interest in the construction industry after taking part in a site visit and then listening to a talk from a Wates plumber.

He said: “The site visit was really interesting because it helped me with my coursework. We watched a video and then had the opportunity to ask questions.

“The talk from the plumber was great because it’s the first time I’ve been able to speak directly to a tradesperson and be able to ask questions about their work. He brought a model with him and we could take that apart and rebuild it like a jigsaw puzzle.”

Teacher Jeff Lane said: “Gabriel is part-way through a construction course and will be able to gain a GCSE qualification at the end of Year 11. The information film was really useful and then the site visit helped to reinforce some of the things that we’d learned from that.

“A number of our pupils have taken part in the site visits and they have been a tremendous help in enhancing their learning.”

The expansion will provide further options in Nottingham for pupils with additional needs. It is part of a wider £41.9m investment by the City Council since 2009 to create thousands of extra school places across the city to meet rising demand. This investment has also included developing further specialist provision within mainstream schools.

Councillor Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Business, Education and Skills at Nottingham City Council, took a tour of the new buildings yesterday to see the progress being made.

He said: “I was really impressed with what I saw during my tour of the site and I’m pleased to hear that there are additional educational benefits to the project, beyond the extra places being created.

“It sounds like Gabriel and his classmates have learned a great deal from spending time on site and being able to ask questions of the workmen. Some may now be inspired to consider a career in the construction industry, which is excellent.

“When we started out on this expansion programme, it was essential to make sure that top-class facilities are made available to all pupils in Nottingham, including those with special education needs and disabilities.

“Our ambition remains to ensure that all pupils in the City attend a good school, close to home, and our on-going expansion strategy means that we are creating more places to achieve this goal.”

John Dyson, Executive Headteacher of the Raleigh Learning Trust, said: “We’ve been really excited to watch this expansion at Westbury take shape over the past ten months. Doubling the official capacity from 60 to 120 places will mean that more parents can access this specialist provision in Nottingham City.”

John Carlin, Business Unit Director at Wates Construction Midlands, said: “The site visits have been a fantastic way for us to demonstrate to teachers, and students like Gabriel, what a large-scale construction project entails, helping to spark and nurture interest in this diverse and exciting industry.

“We are proud to be working with the council in improving the educational offering in Nottingham and it was a pleasure to welcome Councillor Webster to the site to witness the progress being made first-hand. We look forward to handing over the completed project to Westbury School in the summer ahead of the new academic year.”

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