St Clement Danes (SCD) is fast becoming one of the most impressive school sites in South East England. Building work has been ongoing for the last two years and the development is now well into the final phase. We talk to Headteacher Toby Sutherland about the changes
Toby Sutherland is a happy Headteacher. And he has a lot to smile about… dedicated staff, enthusiastic students and the support of a pro-active PA, but the icing on the cake is the evolving state-of-the-art school environment.
The school secured funding of £8 million to complete four phases of building works to meet the growing need for school places in Three Rivers. The expansion started in autumn 2016 and by March 2017 there was a two-storey extension to the existing SCD Sixth Form Building with eight maths classrooms and an expansive art teaching area including photography studio, dark room, increased IT facilities, gallery space and a quiet study area.
By January of this year, thanks to additional funding from the Holborn Estate Charity,a new dance and fitness studio with kitchenette and office had been added, as well as refurbished sports changing rooms.
Mr Sutherland, who became Head in January this year, is thankful to have joined SCD at a prime time.
“It’s exciting being involved at this junction and leading at a stage when the school is developing.”
The building contractor, Neville Construction, (“they are sensational in terms of needs of the school and managing them”) is currently pressing on with tying up the final phase. So far, an additional science lab and improved technology teaching spaces are ready to go and a large open space to facilitate easier student movement through the school has been completed.
This is the part many of the students appreciate most.
“There’s no corridor crush any more says Head Girl Florence McGrath, “The space is wide and open and it’s so much easier to move around.”
We were given a guided tour of recent additions. Every square centimetre seems to have been utilised for the ultimate benefit of the students. One tiny outdoor patch of land is set to become a sheltered microclimate for growing veg by the Food Tech Department while another is earmarked as a herb garden/hospitality area. A new Textiles classroom is one of many internal rooms to benefit from windows onto the corridor.
“It’s the norm now to include windows in the design of new internal classrooms, it makes the learning space seamless and brings learning out into the corridors and those outside into the lessons.”
The lighting in the new-build areas is greatly improved and spaces have been totally transformed. So much thought has gone in to every stage. The new Dance and Drama studio has a Bluetooth soundbar, an Art room has clever drawer storage for student work that utilises a void underneath a work surface in the adjoining office and fresh paintings are hung up to dry by a clever bespoke clip using marbles as a grip.
So, what’s next? The conversion of an existing PE space into a fitness centre for the use of students and staff is in the pipeline (“We have many elite athletes in the school”). This will support them, the school teams and introduce younger students to new elements of fitness.
But Head Boy, Maxwell Duncan is most looking forward to the doors of the new Learning Resource Centre(LRC) opening.
“The updated environment will hopefully increase productivity! We plan to host our Friday debates in the old LRC si bow we hgace the best of both worlds.”
“We are constantly looking at what we can do and how to make best use to meet needs of students as the school grows.” explains Mr Sutherland, “The old LRC space will become an improved social and dining area and the adjoining courtyard is a natural extension of that space. It’s really nice to get a sense of what you can take forward.”
Decisions are not made lightly. Staff as well as the Students’ Union (SU) are often consulted on their ideas for changes, not least about suggestions for the LRC.
When we visited, new SU applications were being sifted through by the Head Boy, Head Girl and their deputies.
“We have just over 60 students in the union divided into four groups with different roles and responsibilities (Student Learning and Welfare, The Environment, Event Management and Year 7) and we’re taking on about 40 new members this term” says Maxwell.
The school promises to take these young people’s comments seriously.
“We take into account students’ opinions as expressed by the Students’ Union” adds Mr Sutherland, “We want to give them a sense of ownership of what we do here. It’s a huge privilege to be involved with students at this level.”
The respect is mutual.
The Head’s positivity resonates throughout the school. Students appreciate his openness and approachable nature.
“He cares about us.”
“I like him.”
Contented students on the whole too then. Happy Days. Happy Danes.