September 24, 2008

Old School Gives Way to ‘Village’ of Learning

By Dave Black

A SCHOOL'S transformation to a multi-million pound, state-of-the- art education complex takes a major step forward today with the official opening of a pounds 12m 'learning village'.

Cramlington High School is the first in Northumberland to become a secondary school for pupils aged 11 to 18 under the Putting the Learner First switch to a two-tier education system.

The project involves the school becoming a 2,000-student learning village complete with its own mini-Eden Project - a biodome where youngsters will learn about plant life, fertilisers and water delivery systems.

Today sees the opening of the junior element of the learning village, an extension providing new facilities for 700 students aged from 11 to 13.

Based around a village street concept, the campus-style character of the revamped school is complemented by four modern and flexible teaching blocks, linked by a tensile fabric roof providing a covered communal street for pupils.

As a specialist science college, the school was one of only 13 across the country to secure funding from the Government's Project Faraday programme to develop cutting edge science and technology facilities.

Later this year work is expected to be completed on building the school's pounds 1m 'science plaza,' incorporating a smaller version of the giant biome at Cornwall's Eden Project - which houses exotic plants from all over the world.

The plaza will also incorporate web cameras, allowing pupils to keep an eye on their experiments during the holidays and confer with peers around the world, and an energy garden featuring mechanisms producing renewable energy.

The junior learning village, which was completed on budget by GB Building Solutions, is part of the massive investment being made by Northumberland County Council in changing from the current three- tier education system of first, middle and high schools.

Yesterday Derek Wise, headteacher of Cramlington Learning Village, said: "The junior learning village has been deliberately designed to provide learning spaces which develop 21st century skills such as independent learning, team work, collaboration and use of ICT.

"The children have already expressed their delight at the facilities and are motivated to work hard."

Trevor Doughty, county council executive director of children's services, said: "It is an innovative, fresh approach to creating fit for purpose learning environments, and a first for Northumberland."

Executive member for children's services, Coun Simon Reed, said: "This is an inspiring environment for young learners. Pupils will undoubtedly benefit from this investment in their future careers."

The children have already expressed their delight at the facilities and are motivated to work hard

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