Wednesday 26 September 2007

School renewal at Cressex

Cressex Community School in High Wycombe is rebuilding, and I was there yesterday for the architects' presentation. Selective education creates big winners and big losers, and for years Cressex has been down the far end of the food chain. There have also been some racial justice issues in the air. Chronic underfunding meant the buildings were basically falling apart, and have been for years.

Governors, staff and community groups (including churches and Steve Whitmore, the local vicar) have been fighting hard to do something about it, led by Dr Katy Simmonds — it's a tough but inspiring story, with highlights and, frankly, some pretty awful lowlights. But there's a happy ending. Thanks to the government's Building Schools for the Future programme, and great support by Bucks County Council once they were fully on side, a new build was announced about this time last year, now upped to £31m — a completely new school by 2010!

I visited Cressex a few months ago and spent time with students and staff. They're 100% commited to the school and each other, and even with all the limitations of the building things are really turning round. I saw some amazing maths and history work, and perceptive students who really cared about their education. Many of the metrics that drive the UK educational standards debate are academic measurables, and the clever bit will be to enhance the quality of vocational learning along with the academic and social improvements that are obviously happening. But things are well on their way, and Cressex is an inspiring story of a community pulling together.

After all the ups and downs along the way, it's only now, looking at HBG's visualisations for a flexible learning space and community campus (with a zero carbon footprint!) that it all seems real. Yesterday really was Kleenex time for various of us who've been backing this project — Kudos to Katy and her governors, partners in local and national government, and, above all to students and staff.

Someone ought to make a movie about this story!

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