When will the Junior School be built?
As we reported in our October newsletter, we are pleased to announce that we now have planning permission. However, there is much work to be done to develop the plans in advance of going to tender and given the national and international changes of the last year, we must now revisit finances with our bank to ensure that their initial indications remain.
We need to take the time to get this right and to make sure that we can finance this build and all other projects that we want to undertake in the next ten years.
It will take approximately 12 months to build the school, and we must have a summer to move in to the building.
At this stage, the likely date is September 2019 but that may well move forwards or back depending on progress at other stages.
How will you finance the build and other aspects of the Master Plan?
We have a strong and positive relationship with our bank and they are fully aware of the project and have given indications that they want to support it. There is recognition and support for plans that maximise our assets, cut down on unnecessary spend and make full use of our 330 acres of beautiful grounds adjoining the National Trust’s Clumber Park.
What facilities can we expect in the new Junior School, and will the school week change?
We’re committed to building a school that improves on what we currently offer. A school that current pupils and future generations can be proud of. Pupils can expect internal sports facilities, and a wealth of outdoor sports space, including number of dedicated sports pitches just for the Junior School.
The school will have a dedicated kitchen and servery area, allowing us to deliver the same quality of food at the Junior School as we currently do at the College site, and our pupils at the Junior School will eat in their own dedicated dining room.
We plan an acoustically-designed performance theatre and hall as part of the new school, and church services will take place in the school hall, which will have a dedicated altar area.
It is also anticipated that occasional use will be made of the College Chapel – one of the finest chapels and organs in the region.
The school is perfectly located to enable our younger children to have their own dedicated space, but to also have access to our excellent facilities across the College site, including a climbing wall, five-lane swimming pool, hockey and rugby pitches and an 18-hole golf course.
In terms of the school week, we have no plans to change the current school week which we believe works best to support the learning of our pupils.
Will there be boarding?
Absolutely. We have continued occasional boarding at the Prep School with great success. Moving Years 7 and 8 to the Worksop College site has allowed the return of full boarding in those years and has seen a significant increase in flexi-boarding since the start of this academic year.
We will continue to offer, enjoy and promote occasional boarding in the new school, offering that flexibility that makes such a difference to our parents’ lives.
How will you manage traffic, and younger children moving around the site?
Part of our planning submission was a detailed traffic plan which has been scrutinised, challenged and reviewed by the Highways Agency.
Work will be carried out to widen the junction and to clear lines of sight at the junction and on the hill coming up to the junction.
The golf course will be moving all of its operations onto one site (it currently straddles the drive) – this will significantly reduce use of the drive by golf course vehicles, and we will have dedicated parking for the Junior School that allows safe pedestrian access to the school.
Many of the facilities will be provided in the new school as listed above, and our sports pitches and gymnasium are all within walking distance.
The senior school building has resources that can, and will be used – but not ones which are required for the daily running of the Junior School. If children are using facilities at the Senior School, and time does not allow the walk, then we have a fleet of new buses that can be used.
Can the school stay at Ranby?
Before embarking on the expensive and extensive process of planning a new school, the Governors commissioned two pieces of research, market research and an architectural feasibility study – both led the Governors to conclude that it was not feasible to remain on the Ranby site.
We also believe pedagogically that our schools are best placed on one site so that we can make the most of adjacencies in terms of staffing and facilities, and ultimately to encourage the cross-year-group working that we know is so important to developing leadership qualities.
We are looking to sell the site and are working with various agencies in this regard, helping to unlock the capital which can be used to improve our schools.
The Charities Commission is clear that Governors (as trustees of the Charity) must ensure that we achieve the best return on any sale.
What about investments in the Ranby site now and in the future?
The Ranby site has benefitted from significant investment in recent years, including the addition of the Adler building, investment in ICT provision, the Library and Pre-Prep. We’ve made improvements to the playground, our entrance hall and boarding, and we continue to invest in specialist staffing.
The Leadership Team at the Prep School have been tasked with planning their priorities for further works for the next two years, ensuring we continue to provide the excellent education that our parents, quite rightly, expect.
What will the schools be called?
This is something that we will work on over the next year, involving parents and pupils in our discussions.
The first piece of research has just been commissioned by Ratcliffe Hall, a market research agency with over 20 years’ experience in the independent education sector. Parents should expect an invitation to give their views in the next few weeks, and we very much welcome your input in this process.
What else forms part of the Master Plan?
Our Governors quite rightly identified that our boarding provision needed to improve. Constructing the new Mason House building enabled us to reconfigure the remaining Houses, bringing them up to the standard that we want, ensuring that every House has its own Housemaster or Mistress, and Assistant, residing in the House.
In fact, refurbishment work means that Gibbs House, built in 2007 is now the oldest boarding facility we have – and this is due for refurbishment as part of our summer programme.
Governors identified that we should commence our Senior Schooling at 11 and we have already shown through feedback and uptake that this was the right move; the atmosphere in Portland is one of nurture but with the challenge that access to Senior School can bring.
The Meynell building is ugly on the outside but on the inside it has some of our best classrooms, and upstairs now houses a really homely, happy, modern and successful House in Portland House.
Whilst we might not like the look of the building on the outside, it does a wonderful and important job for us and so at this stage it would be a waste of Charitable resources to demolish it.
We identified that in order to support our students to become independent, resilient and adaptable, we needed to invest in Sixth Form Education and we now have a dedicated team of tutors led by a Head and Deputy Head of Sixth Form, this will be supported by the new Sixth Form Centre, expected to be complete by next summer.
We are pleased to say that the vast majority of our classrooms were refurbished over the summer, and this cycle continues.
We need to improve our pool facilities, and although the pool itself is of very good quality and upkeep, we recognise that the area around the pool and the changing facilities need investment.
Having our own pool means our pupils interested in swimming are able to access three early morning training sessions and four dedicated afternoon/evening sessions per week.
On the note of swimming, we are also pleased to announce that we’ve just become the home of the excellent swimming club, Worksop Dolphins.
Moving to outdoor education, we are in the process of looking at investment in floodlighting, to support rugby (and other) training throughout winter evenings. Hockey and Cricket remain growth areas for us, and we will be investing in these sports to create academies that will continue to build on our reputation as a centre of sporting excellence.
We are thrilled at all that has been achieved in the last few years, and we’re excited to be moving into this next phase of growth.