Smithdon Headteacher John Hirst was on BBC Radio Norfolk’s Breakfast Show on Tuesday
Smithdon headteacher John Hirst was on BBC Radio Norfolk’s Breakfast Show on Tuesday talking about the extensive renovation works that have taken place at the school during lockdown – and outlining his hope that there could be more to come.
As he explained, lockdown may have upset the school routine, but one positive was that it freed up the school site for building work. “We were obviously concerned about the education of the children, but with them not on site it meant we could push things forward quicker than first planned,” he said.
Our school’s unique architectural status draws visitors from as far afield as Japan, he revealed, but it also made it harder to update, something that has become very necessary recently. “They say that this is the most significant architectural building in East Anglia after Ely Cathedral, but it's listed nature makes it difficult to make changes,” he said.
Around £1 million in SCA funding has already been spent this year on upgrades such as new roofs, and updating facilities for special provision, including the food tech and art rooms, the ICT suite and new learning spaces, but we are keen for more funding to be made available for significant redevelopment at the school, which is why the recent visit of local MP James Wild was so important.
“He came to see how he can support us in the next phase of updating specialist provision, mainly the school science labs,” said Mr Hirst.
Mr Wild told BBC Radio Norfolk Smithdon’s buildings were ‘quite Marmite’ in terms of their architectural style, and that while impressed by the work that has been done, he could see where there was the need for more.
“Some of the buildings are not fit for purpose for teaching in many ways. The government has announced a new funding and repair budget, so that’s something I will be talking to the [education] minister about,” he said.
“I saw the practical impact [the repairs] are having. The science labs and other parts of the school clearly need money spent to make it safe and weatherproof, and that’s something I will be taking up in Westminster with the education secretary.”
So having already had one significant visitor, Mr Hirst is hopeful that soon we might have another one, education secretary Gavin Williamson himself.
“I think he [Mr Wild] was really quite impressed. He recognises this is quite an old building. There was some building on the school site around 2000 and most lessons take place in very modern buildings, but updating the special provisions is something that’s really needed.”
Although a significant amount of money has already been spent, Mr Hirst said even more was still needed, and having the support of the local MP was a significant step forward.
“He’s looking at getting Gavin Williamson to come for a visit, and then hopefully we can get a share of that £1 billion of funding Boris Johnson has promised us all,” he said. “Once we get the support of the education secretary as well, it will be good for the children and the population of Hunstanton, because everybody needs the best they can have to improve their life chances and choices.”