I was on duty on the field when I found out. Mr Neale, our Business Manager, came to find me. “We’ve got the new Science and Technology block,” he said. It took a moment to sink in, but then we were both grinning from ear-to-ear and shaking hands. It was the news that we’d been waiting for.
It’s a strange experience receiving the news that the Academy has been awarded £3,905,857 in government funding. When I got back to my office, there was an email waiting for me with the subject line “Application Outcome – Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) 2017-18″. The email went on:
Thank you for applying to the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) 2017 to 2018.
We received requests for more than £1.3 billion for over 3800 projects to this year’s round. Following our assessment of applications, we have announced £466 million for 1435 projects across 1184 academies and sixth-form colleges.
You can view the full list of successful projects at…
The link takes you to a Department for Education website page. Then you have to download a spreadsheet. Then you need to scroll through the spreadsheet which lists all 1435 successful projects, looking for North Somerset…and there it is. Churchill Academy. “Replacement of Science Labs and Design Technology facilities.” We’ve got the bid.
Only about a third of the bids submitted across the country were successful. We are one of only four bids in North Somerset to be funded this year. For the Academy, it’s the culmination of years of hard work. The first bid to replace our ageing Tudor block was submitted in 2014 – and was unsuccessful. Since then, we’ve been working tirelessly to convince the Education Funding Agency that the building – originally built in the mid-1950s for the very first students to come to the new school in Churchill – was in need of replacement.
We’ve had surveys. We’ve had health and safety and environmental audits. We’ve had structural reports. We’ve been up on the roof to photograph the cracks, leaks and gaps. And we’ve put hours and hours into planning for the replacement buildings, working with our architects and our contractors to ensure that every detail was considered and every eventuality planned for.
In the last cycle of funding, we were awarded £1.3 million to build our new Computing and Business Studies block, which is very nearly finished. That project has run like clockwork, with minimal disruption to the Academy, and is due to be handed over to us by the end of April. We will then fit it out with computers and equipment, ready for students in June.
That building replaces the top floor of the Tudor block, and was called “Phase One.” We submitted “Phase Two” – the replacement of the ground and first floor – in December 2016. At the top of the submission documents, I wrote a letter to plead our case, which concluded:
“2017 is the school’s Diamond Jubilee year. Our main building has served us well for sixty years, but the students of 2017 deserve better than to receive their education in a building designed and built for the students of 1957. Its replacement is now a necessity.”
All that hard work has paid off. The second phase of the project will go up on the site of “The Cage” behind the Sports Centre, and will include twelve brand-new Science Labs and two modern and fully equipped catering rooms. Work has already begun this week in preparation for the build. Ground will be broken this summer. The first students are due to go into the new facilities at the beginning of 2019. Now all that’s left to do is to bid for the funding to demolish the decommissioned building…
It’s Mr Neale’s last term-time week at the Academy this week, as he is relocating to take up a new role after Easter. He’s been busy tying up loose ends, handing over to those taking over, and in particular seeing our current building project through to completion. I’d like to pay tribute to him here as he leaves us, and thank him for his contribution to Churchill. The facilities that students will enjoy for generations to come are a fitting legacy for him to leave behind – we all wish him well in the future.