Inside the inspirational new Bottisham Village College buildings
Principal says £17.5m project is 'like being in a new school'
A £17.5million project to expand an oversubscribed village secondary school has almost reached completion. Extensive works at Bottisham Village College have taken place over the past 18 months, funded with government grants.
Principal Jenny Rankine, who has been at the school for the past 23 years, told the Cambridge Independent that it is “like being in a new school”.
Bottisham, which is currently a seven-form entry, will expand to a 10-form entry over the next two years to meet the increasing demand for places.
Ms Rankine said: “Seeing the excitement of both staff and students as they looked around their new college last week was wonderful.
“The culmination of hard work and years of planning with numerous external agencies and fantastic team spirit of our operations staff over the summer have got us to this point.
“We are looking forward to continuing our support to meet every student’s needs and aspirations with exceptional, quality education for years to come, with our village college ethos remaining prominent throughout.”
The development includes a new bus park, performance hall, dance studio, music rooms, recording studio and suite of practice rooms, which will all support the school’s already strong arts ethos. Alongside this sits 12 modern classrooms and dining hall overlooking the school’s sports facilities.
Bottisham has also had wide reaching refurbishment work completed across its site, all open for business for the beginning of the new term.
Ms Rankine said: “The pupils are so much calmer because they were being crunched into a tiny little school for two years while the building has been going on.
“Everything is now much bigger. For example, upstairs in the new block, we have three new music classrooms with eight practice rooms and a recording studio. Before we had two very small classrooms and three practice rooms.
“There’s much more space for the students, who are really talented. We can offer a lot more, we’ve got more rehearsal space and our performance hall, although the same size, now has bleacher seating, so we can use the space in lots of different ways.”
She added: “We’ve got a bigger dining room, so instead of staggering the lunches, everyone can eat together and create much more of a sense of community.
“We want to try to make sure that everyone in the catchment goes to the catchment school.
“That has meant that we’ve had to over admit to eight-form but next year, we’re going to put forward the move to a 10-form.”
The last phase of the build is now well under way at the front of the school with the refurbishment of the original 1937 school hall. This will open as a new community library and careers resource centre at the end of October.
It is planned for the new library to become a community hub, with workshops and aspiration talks to be held there.
The school will also unveil the new Henry Morris room for adult learning, which is named after the former director of education responsible for creating village colleges in Cambridgeshire.
The additional works will also include the creation of a new reception area, offices, three computer suites and conference space.
It is also hoped that the new spaces and buildings will help the village college attract and retain staff in what is currently a difficult period for education.
Ms Rankine explained: “It’s about enticing great staff to work here as it’s really difficult being a rural school outside Cambridge to get great quality teachers. We’re really lucky in this crisis, we just made it to be fully-staffed at the beginning of the year but it’s getting harder and harder because people can’t afford to live in Cambridge and then houses in the villages are very hard to come by.
“It’s really difficult to recruit and I think this will help with our recruitment and help us be able to retain quality teachers.”
Ms Rankine also praised construction firm Morgan Sindall for its staff’s hard work to complete the redevelopment on schedule.
She says the school community continues to remain proud of the concept of the village college, and they do all that they can to live up to its founder’s ideals.
Ms Rankine said: “I can’t quite believe how bricks and mortar can make such a difference to young people and the staff, feeling inspired to do a great job.