It is not only physical changes to classrooms that teachers hope will inspire pupils at three Blackpool schools.
For as well as a £22m upgrade of facilities at St Mary’s Catholic College on St Walburga’s Road, new links have been formed to create a smoother transition between primary and high school education.
This week saw the official launch of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust, with Christ the King, St Cuthbert’s and St Mary’s Catholic Academies the first three members.
Established by the Lancaster RC Diocese, the Trust aims to bring together the different skills, talents and experiences in the three schools to give children a better education.
There will also be stronger links with the other six Catholic primary schools in Blackpool.
Former St Mary’s head teacher Stephen Tierney, executive director of the trust, said: “We want to make learning from the age of three to 19 as seamless as possible.
“There is a central partnership but a really strong partnership with the other Catholic primary schools in Blackpool as well. The admissions policy to St Mary’s remains unchanged.
“But what this does do is create a much stronger link between primary and secondary education.
“Sometimes at 11, it is almost a cliff edge when it comes to the difference between what primary and secondary schools do. We want much more rapid progress, particularly around transition points.”
The Trust has been named after the locally born Catholic martyr Edward Bamber.
Mr Tierney added: “There is a story that the Blessed Edward Bamber once escaped from the authorities over a bridge.
“The bridge is a powerful metaphor about our connectedness and the importance of transition. Our academies are rooted in their local communities and connected to the wider Catholic community, especially the Catholic primary schools and parishes in the area.
“We aim to work together, using our combined knowledge of the different phases of schooling, to ensure we have the best transition possible from primary to secondary school and on to St Mary’s Sixth Form.
“Transition is often thought about as a series of different bridges from children’s personal and social transition to their transition as learners.”
The new chairman of the board of directors Barry Leyland added: “These professional development programmes have been deliberately chosen as we want staff from the primary and secondary schools to be working together.
“Their focus will be on providing a seamless education for children.”
Investment has been made in 40 classrooms, science and computer labs and a new gym, school hall, dining hall and staff facilities at St Mary’s.
There is also a new 210-place Christ the King Primary School, and a new Christ the King Parish Church which replaces the former church on Grange Park, and is due to be officially opened later this month by Bishop Michael Campbell.
A student’s perspective
By Olivia Maginnis-Jones - Sixth Form Student
St. Mary’s Catholic College has been in dire need of modernisation for a very long time and now the £22 million work is finally complete.
By being a student from 2008, I have experienced the whole of the building works: from having lessons in portable buildings to the sports hall being converted into a canteen and the gym being our temporary chapel, the transition from ancient to modern was really quite smooth.
Of course with every building project, there were a few disruptions. However, the building that we have now was well worth the wait. St. Mary’s used to be old, dark and dreary yet now all classrooms have big open windows which makes the whole building feel more open, new and fresh. What’s more, social spaces have now been created in each learning house which gives the opportunity for all ages and year groups to mix and socialise. The learning houses were created with this exact intention and are grouped together in similar subjects.
Through this new school, it is much easier to navigate your way round. Before the new build, the classrooms just had numbers and both new and existing students found it very easy to get lost. Yet now, the classrooms have a very organised system where the room number now corresponds with the floor that it is on, what learning house it is in and what part of the learning house. This makes it far easier for new students to make their way around the College and more comfortable with their new surroundings.
I am now in my last year at Sixth Form where the building first opened last September. It is a huge improvement from the previous area and we have our own floor, which separates us from lower school to make it feel like a college instead of a school. However, one problem with the area is that the common room is very small and is often crowded when all Sixth Form students are together. On the other hand, the facilities provided for us, such as our own library, are a huge help to our A-Levels and other qualifications that we are studying for.
As St. Mary’s and Christ the King have come together, the building is now St. Mary’s Academy and I believe that the building is better than ever. It is modern and accommodates any student’s needs but still manages to retain its traditional front which makes St. Mary’s Academy a rare light in Blackpool.