School refurb given green light

A £23m construction project has finally begun at a secondary school nine months later than planned, after government cuts threatened funding.

Over the next two years, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College (ELA) will gain a new lecture theatre, performance and music spaces, computer studios, a sports hall, art and design facilities and multi-purpose classrooms.

Doubts had been cast over the project after the coalition government axed Labour’s £55bn Building Schools for the Future scheme in July, but the plans were deemed too far advanced to cancel.

Project manager Robert Holmes claimed that, despite initial plans to start in May 2010, it will still be completed by the original deadline of October 2013 by contractors Balfour Beatty.

“We have a really good relationship with the school and are talking to them on a daily basis to make sure the project runs smoothly,” said Mr Holmes.

“We’ve also been working with local residents to make sure there is no disruption and have had no complaints so far.”

Headteacher Jo Dibb said she was pleased that the work had finally started. “This is a critical point as it signifies the moment when the new school we’ve all been dreaming about is brought to fruition,” she said. “The students here [who have helped with the design] have had some fantastic ideas about what they would like their new school to be and we’re looking forward to seeing it develop.”

Despite the scrapping of 700 school redevelopment projects nationwide, ELA and the current £27m makeover to Islington Arts and Media School, will be the fifth and sixth developments completed in Islington under the scheme.

Another two schools – Highbury Fields School for Girls and Mount Carmel Roman Catholic Technology College for Girls – are in discussion ahead of submitting plans to the local planning authority. The budget for all eight projects would amount to £150m.

It remains unclear, however, whether these last two will get the go-ahead since their plans are not as far advanced as the two which have been greenlit.