Westfield Academy rebuild: £20 million grant will provide the 'school that it needs and deserves' (From Watford Observer)
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Westfield Academy rebuild: £20 million grant will provide the 'school that it needs and deserves'
A "forgotten" west Watford school will be demolished and rebuilt following a £20 million government grant.
The news that Westfield Academy will receive the influx of cash has been welcomed by teachers, parents and politicians.
The Tolpits Lane school was awarded the grant from the Department for Education.
If planning approval is given then work is expected to begin at the end of the year and should be completed by September 2016.
The rebuild will see pupil intake increase by 25 percent, and lessons are expected to continue in the old building while the new work takes place.
The academy’s principal, Tim Body, said: "This is very exciting time. We will be having a brand new school from scratch.
"The design is green and eco-friendly, but it is also very forward thinking when it comes to modern ideas on teaching.
"The new design will allow the flexibility to make better use of different types of learning environment, like libraries and learning zones."
New features will include seven Information Communication Technology rooms, a purpose-built Special Education Needs centre with dedicated therapy rooms, five new outdoor tennis courts and a county standard football pitch.
Susan Dollard, whose son is in Year 11, said: "The school really needs this done. It needs some upgrading and it’ll also increase the pupil intake, which has been a growing problem.
"I’m very impressed with the academy and I think a new school will make people look on it more positively."
The school will remain open during the redevelopment, with the new facilities being built alongside the existing one.
Commenting on the possible disturbance that could be caused during the building work, she said: "They will just have to manage it. It’s a huge amount of money that’s being invested, which is good and they will just have to cope the disruption."
Watford MP, Richard Harrington, has welcomed the cash boost, comparing the Westfield Academy to a downtrodden and neglected fairytale character.
The Conservative politician said: "I always felt that Westfield was a bit of a Cinderella school. It was always forgotten about.
"About three years ago I took the then schools minister, Nick Gibb, to visit the school. We looked around and from that point on I started to push the government for any funds that were available to rebuild it.
"So I was absolutely delighted that we got the money. It will mean completely rebuilding a new school next to the old one. It’ll be a new building for the community, which is very important. It’s public money to provide public facilities."
Mr Body said representatives from the school have been working on the redevelopment programme with the Education Funding Agency (EFA) for the past two years in order to ensure that the community "gets the school that it needs and deserves".
Mr Body said: "We are currently a good school, but we are not satisfied with that. We want this build to be the catalyst to make us one of the best in the country. It may seem like a lofty ambition, but our goal is to strive for excellence."
He added: "Of course this is about offering the best possible opportunities for the pupils but it is also about the local people. Our hope is that the school becomes a community hub for education and excellence."
The town’s elected Mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, concurred with the "brilliant" redevelopment news.
The Liberal Democrat said: "They deserve it. It’s a school that is on the way up and deserves that amount of confidence placed in it."
Residents are invited to the public consultation event at the school, which is being held on Tuesday, April 22 at 3.30pm.
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