A state-of-the-art investment in the leaders of tomorrow has been opened by His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester at Barnard Castle School.
Hundreds of pupils aged four to 18 provided a flag-waving reception for His Royal Highness as he landed on fields at Barnard Castle School in a royal helicopter.
The Queen’s cousin was there to tour and officially open the school’s innovative new Sixth Form Centre, where he met staff, governors, architects and students, all of whom had an input in the new building.
The design and construction of the sixth form centre within existing school buildings yet blending cutting-edge educational features was of particular interest to the Royal visitor, who is a qualified architect.
The Duke unveils a plaque to commemorate the opening
Prior to unveiling a plaque, he told students, staff and guests including Lord Lieutenant of County Durham Sue Snowdon: ‘It’s a great pleasure for me to come to your splendid school and be in this historic hall which marks many years of past pupils. I am delighted to play a tiny role in your history by coming to open your new sixth form centre.
‘Sixth forms now need to be much more sophisticated in what they provide in terms of electronics and gadgets in order to enable sixth formers to have access to a much wider world.
‘For me it’s a great pleasure to see architecture that can be squeezed in between historic buildings and provides the space and meets the particular needs of your sixth form in order to fulfil their true role. Congratulations to all who have played a part and I hope those who use it appreciate that it didn’t spring up overnight.’
Explaining that the new centre is named after Old Barnardian and former housemaster Kenneth King, Headmaster Alan Stevens said: ‘We will continue to undertake those most valuable principles for which Kenneth King was renowned – to prepare and guide young people for the future so they can make informed choices in their later lives which are valuable to their community, society and nation so they can be fulfilled, happy and successful people.’
President of the sixth form common room Salma Ali, 16, thanked His Royal Highness on behalf of the school and presented him with a watercolour of the building.
The centre has been planned to transform quickly from formal study area to comfortable social space featuring tables for dining and booth seating for socialising. Clever use of acoustic materials allows for individual and collaborative study and multiple activities in the same open plan space.
Emphasis has also been placed on the technological needs of modern students with wi-fi, PCs, USB charging sockets, electronic room booking tablets and intelligent lockers with thumbprint scanners and charging points for a range of devices. Workspace on the mezzanine level boasts views of the ground floor and Bowes Museum next door thanks to panoramic glazing.
Head of sixth form, Chris Butler, said: ‘This wonderful centre was designed with the help of students and is very much for the students. It is a unique private space that complements beautifully the rest of the school.
“It enhances the student experience greatly by providing an adult learning environment similar to university and bridging that gap about which we hear so much from higher education.”
To boost students’ life-skills there are also three fully fitted kitchen stations, which they can use to develop culinary skills, complete with built-in ironing boards to help prepare them for life at university and beyond. The centre is open for students from 8am-10pm each day.
It is also home to the director of studies and careers staff, giving students easy access to a host of invaluable advice and a venue for visiting speakers from industry, professions and higher education, as well as sessions on the psychology of behaviour, stress management and current affairs.