Pass me the wrecking ball!

As regular readers of this blog will know, we have been engaged in a three-phase project to replace the original 1956 school building, known as Tudor Block. In April 2016, we were awarded Phase 1: £1.3 million to build the Alan Turing Building for Business Studies, Computing and Social Sciences, which opened in June 2017. In April 2017, we were awarded Phase 2: £3.9 million to build the Athene Donald Building for Science and Technology, which is now under construction. On 29th March this year, we received the now familiar email regarding Phase 3…

Dear Colleague,

Thank you for applying to the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) 2018 to 2019.

We received requests for more than £1.5 billion for over 4,600 projects in this year’s round. Following our assessment of applications, we have announced £514 million for 1,556 projects at 1,299 academies and sixth-form colleges.

You can view the full list of successful projects at…

And, thankfully, our third phase bid was also successful – £750,000 to demolish the Tudor block and “make good” the footprint of the building. We aim to put car parking in its place, which we hope will improve the safety of our students and members of the community on the narrow roads around the Academy by reducing congestion from on-road parking. Planning is already in place, and we will be working hard with the contractors to minimise disruption and produce the best possible outcome from the works, which are due to be completed in the middle of 2019.

Andrew Frappel - boys pic 1958

Part of the Tudor Building can be seen in the background of this, the earliest school photo we have found,  courtesy of alumnus Andrew Frappell who joined the school in 1958.

This is a landmark moment for the Academy. The Tudor Block was the first building to be constructed as part of the new secondary school for Churchill in 1956, and it has formed the core of the school’s facilities for many years. However, after 60 years in service it is no longer fit for purpose, and all of the classrooms from T1 onwards will be demolished. The current reception, offices, main hall and gym will remain intact.

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This aerial shot from 1970 shows the original Tudor block in the right of the picture.

The removal of this building will mean a change of shape to the site, and we will be working hard over the coming year to review and redevelop our provision to accommodate this new emphasis. It’s an exciting time, and the culmination of a lot of work from a huge team of people. Particular thanks are due to Deputy Headteacher Mark Branch, who has coordinated and led the third phase of the project with great skill – and will continue to do so as the demolition progresses.

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Satellite picture of our site captured in 2016, prior to commencement of the three-phase project. The Tudor block is the T-shaped building towards the top of the picture.  

The Alan Turing Building

1928, Alan Turing, aged 16 (cropped)

Alan Turing at age 16 (1928)

It is with great pride that we have named our new Computing, Business Studies and Social Sciences building The Alan Turing Building, in honour of the great war hero and father of modern computer science. Alan Turing died on this day, June 7th, in 1954.

Who was Alan Turing?

Alan Turing was born on 23rd June 1912, and is widely credited as the founder of computer science. He is best known for his work at Bletchley Park in the Second World War, where he and his team of codebreakers successfully cracked the Enigma Code used by Nazi Germany to communicate with its Navy. His work is thought to have shortened the war by two to four years, saving between 14 and 21 million lives in the process.

Alan Turing was educated at Sherborne School in Dorset, and later at King’s College, Cambridge. Whilst at Cambridge, Turing came across an unsolved mathematical problem – the question of Decidability, the Entscheidungsproblem. Turing set out to work out whether there could be a definite method by which it could be decided whether any mathematical assertion was provable. In order to answer this question, he came up with the idea of the Universal Turing Machine – a theoretical machine which would follow the instructions laid out by a “programmer” in order to complete mathematical tasks. In other words, he invented the idea of a computer.

Four-rotor German Enigma cypher machine, 1939-1945.

A German Enigma cipher machine (source)

It was this theory which was turned into practice at Bletchley Park. He created a machine called “Victory” in the Spring of 1940 which was able to crack the German military code-machine, Enigma. By 1943, Turing and his team were cracking a total of 84,000 different Enigma messages every month – two messages every minute. Every time the Germans introduced a new code or cipher, Turing’s machines were able to crack it.

 

Turing’s Bombe computer, rebuilt at Bletchley Park (source)

Following the war, Turing worked on developing his code-breaking machines into universal computers, paving the way for the technology revolution which has transformed all of our lives. But nobody at the time knew of the contribution that Alan Turing had made to the end of the war, as his work was classified top secret until 1974.

Turing had been openly gay since his time at Cambridge. However, homosexuality was a criminal offence at the time, and he was arrested for gross indecency and came to trial in March 1952. He did not deny his actions or defend himself; he said he saw no wrong in being gay, and told the police he believed homosexuality should be legalised. Rather than go to prison, he accepted a form of “chemical castration” – a year-long programme of hormone injections designed to suppress his sexuality. On 8th June 1954 his body was found; he had taken cyanide poison. The coroner’s verdict was suicide.

Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1967, and in 2013 Alan Turing received a royal pardon, removing his criminal record. He is now widely recognised as a war hero and a pioneer in Mathematics and Computing.

Why the Alan Turing Building?

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The Alan Turing Building at Churchill Academy & Sixth Form, opened June 2017

Turing represents the best of British innovation, using his expertise in mathematics to solve unsolvable problems, save millions of lives, and change the face of technology. He also represents equality, refusing to hide or be ashamed of who he really was, no matter what other people thought. In both ways, Alan Turing has changed our society for the better. We hope that the students educated in this building, dedicated to Computing – the subject he invented – along with Business Studies and the Social Sciences – will embody the same spirit of innovation and equality, and go on as he did to make the world a better place.

Inside the Alan Turing Building

These photographs, taken during the final fit-out of the Alan Turing Building, show the Smarter Spaces colour scheme designed by our students. This light and airy space, equipped with brand new computers and interactive displays, will be a superb facility for our students today and far into the future and, we hope, a fitting tribute to someone whose story we think everyone should know.