New Junior Building and ‘Hub’ Unveiled
Withington opened its doors at the start of the 2015/16 academic year with a brand new purpose-built Junior School building, an impressive central ‘Hub’ and significantly enhanced Senior School facilities.
Girls and staff alike were full of praise for the development – a year in construction and the largest in the School’s 125-year history – with many admiring the transformation with its sense of space, light and airy interiors and a calming ambience throughout.
First impressions from delighted Juniors included, ‘magnificent’, ‘amazing’, ‘welcoming and warm’ and ‘a spacious white day dream’. One Lower II pupil particularly liked the colourful beanbags and seats, “It made me feel at home,” she said, and another commented: “When I walked into the new Junior building for the first time, I thought it was so shiny, new and modern. I also thought I was really lucky to have this great space to learn and to enjoy my education!”
The new Junior School, which currently houses around 125 girls, is configured over two stories, with a spacious ground floor reception and quiet area, leading through to a large multi-purpose Hall overlooking the playing fields beyond. There is a suite of eight classrooms, which includes a library and a dedicated room for small-group work.
Investment in the Junior School includes upgrading IT facilities, with a state-of-the-art computer mezzanine, along with additional iPads, smartboards in all classrooms and roaming ‘visualisers’ to enable more interactive learning.
Head of Junior School Mrs Kathryn Burrows said: “We are delighted with our new building. We are very fortunate to be able to provide such amazing facilities and we are all very excited about working together here. It is an ‘edgy’, modern design yet has such a tranquil, peaceful atmosphere, creating a wonderful environment in which the girls will be able to learn and thrive. It’s just the beginning for us as we now have so much space to develop. We are very much looking forward to our new chapter.”
Another striking feature of Withington’s new development is the construction of a glazed ‘Hub’ which has cleverly utilised previously under-used space, wrapping around the School’s Arts Centre to create an area that will unify the Senior and Junior departments and provide an attractive space for exhibitions, displays, musical recitals and other extra-curricular activities.
Senior school facilities have also been enhanced for the start of term. Withington’s aspiring young scientists will benefit from the complete refurbishment of the two existing Chemistry laboratories, with the addition of a brand new third laboratory – all with up-to-date equipment including high-quality fume cupboards – as well as a dedicated separate Sixth Form Chemistry study area.
Design Technology has been relocated in a move that brings the DT, Food Technology and Textiles teaching rooms together in one area. The former site of the Junior School now also houses newly refurbished Senior School classrooms and a second Drama Studio. In addition, for the first time, Withington has a conference and meeting centre. Aptly named ‘The Founders’ Room’ to mark its creation during the 125th Anniversary year, the room has large tables and seating which will comfortably accommodate around 30 people. As Withington is a regional training centre for newly qualified teachers working in the independent sector, this new space is going to be invaluable for the wider community as well as for Withington’s own staff.
Withington Headmistress Mrs Sue Marks commented: “It is wonderful that these important new buildings and refurbishment works have been completed in 2015, the 125th anniversary of the School’s foundation. It seems very fitting that we are not only celebrating the Founders’ vision back in 1890, but also anticipating the needs of future generations of Withington pupils. The new facilities will transform the learning of our girls in a number of subjects, providing for practical, hands-on activities and giving huge amounts of extra space for girls’ independent learning and social interaction alike”.
All the works were carried out by local firms. The main contractors for the new building project were Seddons and the architects were Levitt Bernstein. The refurbishment of the Chemistry, Technology, Drama and ancillary areas has been carried out by Labform Ltd in conjunction with S + B.
These magnificent new facilities will be officially opened by HRH The Duchess of Gloucester on 30th September 2015.