It is now 15 years since our award-winning prep school building was opened by humanitarian Terry Waite.
The state-of-the-art, £3.2 million building has seen hundreds of children grace its classrooms since it first opened its doors in 2008, and is still as innovative as it was the day it was built.
Mrs Clarke, Principal of St Joseph’s College, who attended the grand opening on January 30 2008, said it was a building designed with little people in mind.
‘It was designed to be different, bespoke – not just another building,’ she said. ‘It’s a school building created especially for children, rather than putting children in an adult building. It’s like the school ethos, building education around the children.’
The children absolutely love it, she added, as it’s light and airy without feeling impersonal.
‘At the time it was a very futuristic building, a bit of a juxtaposition to the other, historic buildings at the school,’ she said. ‘And it’s just as high-tech and innovative as it was then.’
The building’s design incorporates curved classrooms, each opening onto the playground under a canopy area.
‘The curve of the building and classrooms feels like someone putting their arm round you,’ said Mrs Clarke. ‘We talk about a rounded education and giving children a rich and varied experience at school – I think our prep school building embodies that idea.’
She said having Terry Waite perform the official opening had made it a very special occasion. Looking back, it was incredible to think of the thousands of young minds that had developed within the school walls and of the thousands more who will enjoy their time at St Jo’s Prep in the future.
‘All will have lots of happy memories,’
Mr Waite CBE became a national hero when he survived five years’ as a hostage in the Lebanon, including four in solitary confinement. An envoy for the Church of England, he had hoped to secure the release of other hostages.
After his release he wrote an account of his ordeal and concentrated on humanitarian causes and charitable work.
He told the children, ‘You have got a lovely new building here. Well done to all those who contributed to this. By the look of it, you should have got Dr Who to open it!’
Mr Philip Branton, Director of architects Wincer Kievenaar, said, ‘For nearly 20 years, we have had a relationship with St Joseph’s College, working alongside Mrs Clarke and her senior team.
‘One of our earliest projects was the new Prep School, and it’s a project we are extremely proud of –we won a RIBA East Spirit of Ingenuity award.’
He said the company looked forward to continuing its work with the College, helping to realise the school’s vision and drive.