Dining upgrade to benefit all at Withington

The physical heart of a school building could describe any number of spaces but there is no doubt that this year’s extension and refurbishment of Withington Girls’ School’s dining areas is an investment in facilities that are close to the hearts of all members of the Withington community.

Work has started on the extension of the existing dining area to accommodate additional seating, upgrade the kitchen facilities and serving areas with state-of-the-art equipment and fittings and modernise the décor and furnishings. The building work will include a first storey extension over the existing dining room to create a flexible, multi-purpose space and hospitality area.

Headmistress, Mrs Sarah Haslam, said: “The dining areas are where pupils and staff gather to relax and catch up with friends and colleagues while enjoying a tasty and nutritious meal or snack. We have missed being able to dine together as we did before the pandemic, so we are particularly delighted that the end of 2021 will mark the completion of this exciting project, the benefits of which will be enjoyed by each and every member of our school community.”

Mrs Haslam added that architects Cassidy + Ashton and John Turner Construction Group, both involved in the successful development of the upgraded Sports Centre and Fitness Suite completed in 2018, will deliver a spacious, bright, attractive and modern two-storey facility that will create versatile spaces and reflect the warm and welcoming atmosphere of the School.

The pupil dining experience will be much enhanced, with the introduction of a second servery and additional seating area improving the flow of pupils during lunchtimes.  Catering Manager, Mrs Sarah McGuffie, explained: “This will allow a more relaxed and interactive experience and will give the girls the opportunity to ask questions, sample dishes they might not normally try and have the time to sit and enjoy their lunch with their friends. The large doors of the dining room extension will allow light to flood into the dining room and, in good weather, will connect the dining room to the outside areas.”

The reconfiguration of the kitchen and addition of some new pieces of equipment will allow more dishes to be prepared at the same time and improve the flow of cooked-to-order food. “Pupils will enjoy a wider range of options and will be able to mix and match their lunch choices, creating a substantial, nutritious meal that suits their dietary requirements and preferences,” added Mrs McGuffie.

Cassidy + Ashton chairman and head architect on the project, Mr Alistair Baines, said: “It’s always a pleasure to be involved in design projects that improve school life for students. We are proud to continue to be a trusted partner for Withington Girls’ School, having previously been involved in the design and creation of its upgraded sporting facilities.”

With a brief to expand the school’s dining area to increase its overall capacity by 10% and improve efficiency, Mr Baines explained that adding a first floor above the full length of the dining room will also create a large function suite and be a cost-effective way of creating a building with multiple uses.

He added: “Not only will the additional first floor provide a large space for a wide range of activities for students, we have incorporated into the design an outdoor spectator area for watching sporting activities on the adjacent playing field, which also offers an excellent vantage point to showcase the school’s top-class sporting facilities.”

Major work on the project will take place during the Easter and Summer holidays and work will be completed by the end of the year, with alternative dining arrangements in place for pupils and staff during term time until then.