Nothing will ever compensate for that feeling of disappointment, nor the loss of 2-3 years as we mobilised our energy and tenacity to lobby yet again for a new school building to help our students compete in the ultra-competitive 21st Century global economy. Sadly, co-locations could not be included in the PSBP (Priority Schools Building Programme) and our emerging collaboration with Kilton Thorpe Special School could not be fruitful but those excellent relationships developed during the BSF planning phase remain today.
PSBP made it quite clear that as one of the 250 schools with the worst condition surveys nationally, we would have to move forwards on our own and so began a 3 year magical mystery tour, with the ultimate aim of delivering a world class learning environment for present and future generations of LJS students.
That dream has now been realised and it has been a privilege to witness overwhelmingly positive official openings for both the new building itself and the stunning AGP (Artificial Grass Pitch). The AGP opened in mid-August with the official ceremony taking place on Thursday 3 November.
The PE Department arranged a full day of activities including a girls’ football demonstration to showcase the outstanding development of girls’ football at LJS, including participation in two national finals in the past 3 years. This was followed by a keenly contested Primary Schools’ 5 aside tournament, won by Saltburn Primary, a Rugby coaching and training session led by coaches from GTRUFC – a loyal and outstanding partner of the school, and a Secondary 7 aside tournament won by the hosts, LJS (on goal difference) after a high quality final with Nunthorpe. The day closed with a skills session with young players from the Junior Section of GTFC strutting their stuff. Ben Gibson and Dave Parnaby officially cut the ribbon and the event was attended by high ranking officials from the North Riding Football Association, Football Foundation, Galliford Try, the Premier League, together with media outlets and journalists both regional and national. All in all a great event. (Further details on website).
The following day, Friday 4 November was an iconic day in the long and distinguished history of LJS with a full day’s activities arranged to honour the official opening of the new school building. In the morning, over 250 pupils from partner Primaries joined Y7 in experiencing entertaining literacy sessions with internationally renowned author Dan Freedman. Every child involved received a signed copy of his latest book, which is about to be turned into a CBBC series featuring the hero, Jamie Johnston.
In the afternoon, dozens of past staff and Governors joined an all-star cast of VIPs including the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Gisborough, Graham Henderson (Ex-Vice Chancellor of Teesside University), Tom Blenkinsop MP, Major of Redcar & Cleveland Councillor Barry Hunt, Deputy Mayor of Guisborough Councillor Dennis Teasdale and James Stuart-Mills (EFA) NE Regional Lead, to witness a vibrant programme of music and dance including a video link with Faye Marsay, star of stage and screen who paid tribute to LJS staff for helping to inspire her to make the most of her fabulous talent.
The official opening was performed by the inimitable Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who reinforced the importance of education in providing choices for young people and spoke glowingly about the students and staff of LJS. The opening ceremony was live streamed on our Facebook account and has received outstanding feedback.
The third special event was a service to commemorate our two fallen heroes in ex-students Chris Maddison and Richard Turnbull, attended by families and friends. This took place in the Y11 Assembly on Remembrance Day, Friday 11 November and was also deemed to be a great success with both families extremely grateful that their sons would have a permanent memorial on the main corridor of the new building. This ceremony also had a live feed which has had over 3,000 hits – again with extremely positive feedback.
On Thursday 17 November, the class of 2016 returned for their exam celebration evening and for a look around the new building. The evening was a great success with important contributions from Mrs Downs, Miss Sarginson, Mrs Spencer and Mrs Armstrong, as well as inspiring words from former student Chris Dunn, now a highly successful lawyer, who travelled all the way from Edinburgh to deliver an entertaining speech. The event was really well attended by last year’s Y11 cohort, plus parents and family members and over 25 LJS staff, which demonstrates how strong those relationships are. If cohort 2016 epitomises the qualities and education of 5 years at LJS, we are doing a fine job – they are excellent ambassadors.
All that remains now in terms of official openings is the Leisure Centre, which will take place in the Spring of 2017 – keep an eye on the local press and our website for more details.
As well as the new build, the new uniform of green blazers was unveiled in September, which seems to be popular with students and parents alike whilst our ‘cashless’ catering system is also up and running very effectively.
Inevitably, with any new building we have experienced our fair share of construction defects and snagging as we settle into our new surroundings but I would like to commend students and staff for their resilience and adaptability as the new systems and routines become embedded.
The final phase of the project involves demolishing the old building early in 2017, which will be emotionally challenging for all of us but when the wonderful landscaping and smart, effective link road emerges I’m sure everyone will reap the benefits. The last 12 months have been extremely challenging and I would like to personally thank students, staff, Governors and the wider community for your patience and support.
Have a great Christmas and a healthy, happy, prosperous 2017.