After years of planning and months of construction a new secondary school opened its doors in east Manchester this week for the very first time. Len Grant spent the historic day with the teachers and pupils of the East Manchester Academy.
First day for the East Manchester Academy 'pioneers'.
The first new pupils cross the threshold before 7.30 on Monday morning to be greeted personally by their Principal, Guy Hutchence.
It’s been a long time coming. Some say a school here has been needed for a generation or two, but now 203 nervous 11-year-olds step into the spacious foyer, shake their headteacher’s hand and are ushered to the canteen to enjoy a free breakfast before assembly.
The significance of this particular start of term is not lost on the local media with TV crews and press photographers documenting Mr Hutchence’s first ever address to his new cohort while local dignitaries, sponsors and regeneration chiefs look on.
Mr Hutchence calls them the ‘pioneers’: the first ever pupils at the new school and, he reminds them, as they will always be the oldest group as the school fills, they will be setting the standard for others to follow.
It’s a big occasion and each of the new intake solemnly take in the message before being escorted to their classrooms by their form teachers.
The morning is non-stop activity: after being issued with planners and timetables each of the forms is given a tour of the school. There’s the indoor sports hall and outdoor all-weather pitches to take in; the dance and drama space; the music technology room and a ‘learning resource centre’ overflowing with Apple Mac computers. These brand new facilities, designed for a full school of 900 pupils, will be at the exclusive disposal – for one year at least – of these fortunate Year 7 students. And then there’s the new public library which shares the building and which will be open when the school is not.
Before lunch there’s a class photograph – one of the reasons I am there – a fire drill and a number of ‘getting to know you’ activities in their form groups. Any nervousness has passed for most by the time pasta and chili are served from the new kitchen. The all-weather pitch is quickly populated and the children explore their new playground.
By the afternoon the new timetable is in full swing and the eager students get their first lessons in RE, history, art, maths, science and music technology.
There’s another assembly before home time and a congratulatory message from Mr Hutchence: it’s been a good first day, the pupils have been patient when things didn’t always go quite to plan and their attitude and behaviour has been first-class.
Outside on the plaza, parents and carers wait patiently to hear about their children’s first day at ‘big school’ and, as the beaming ‘pioneers’ stream out to be re-united, there’s no doubt it’s been a great success.
A few years back it felt like Manchester city centre was changing exponentially, writes Len Grant. Certainly I’d come across parts of town that had been totally transformed since my last visit. New buildings, and sometimes whole districts, were springing up almost overnight.
Now, it seems, its the turn of east Manchester. There are neighbourhoods I haven’t visited for several weeks that are now almost unrecognisable. New public buildings are preparing to open; construction sites are crawling with yellow-vested works and dumper trucks; there’s a buzz about the place which seems at odds with economic forecasts.
For this ‘back to school’ progress report, I’ve included some highlights from a whistle-stop photographic tour of east Manchester.
This is the East Manchester Academy, whose progress East has been following for the past 18 months. On Monday it opens its doors to 203 Year 7 pupils, the first cohort of a long-awaited secondary school for the area. The Academy’s Principal, Guy Hutchence, calls them the ‘pioneers’, the ones who will set the standard for the years to come. Check out East next week where we will feature the historic first day of the Academy. Beswick Library shares the same building and opens to the public a week later on the 13th.
Over in Miles Platting this is the brand new Park View Community School which moves from its Victorian building on Nelson Street to its new home on Varley Street.
Up Oldham Road the Greater Manchester Police 240,000 sq ft Force Headquarters is nearing completion at Central Park. The steel frame in the background is the £35 million Divisional Headquarters which, when complete in 2011, will house those officers currently stationed in Beswick at Grey Mare Lane.
Across east Manchester the most visible construction activity is the laying of the Metrolink tracks that will take trams from the city centre to Droylsden. This Phase 3 extension work sees trams running along the main roads, as well as through new tunnels and across new bridges, taking in New Islington, Holt Town and Sportcity.
Here’s the beginnings of the £24 million BMX Centre, part of the National Cycling Centre. Built right alongside the Manchester Velodrome, it will eventually seat 2000 spectators and become the home of the British Cycling Federation.
Some of the biggest changes in east Manchester are currently happening in Openshaw. Morrisons will be the cornerstone in a £40 million retail development including other stores, offices, a car park for nearly 700 cars and a new piece of public art. This week hundreds of local people are being interviewed for positions at the store.
Further down Ashton Old Road, yet another housing development is progressing to fulfill the ambition of more new homes in east Manchester. This is The Key, a development of houses and apartments for sale or shared ownership. Visit www.thekeyeastmanchester.co.uk.
Since January 2009, Guy Hutchence, Principal-Designate of East Manchester Academy has been keeping readers updated on the progress of the new school on Grey Mare Lane. With the Academy now due to open in September with nearly 200 Year 7 ‘pioneers’ eager to take their places, Mr Hutchence concludes his monthly Principal’s Blog.
It’s a delight showing visitors around our new academy as everyone is amazed how light and spacious the building is and how colourful too. All the internal paintwork is now complete and the classrooms are fitted out, ready to go.
The external spaces have all now been cleared of building material and landscaped and so the playground, amphitheatre and the plaza adjacent to Grey Mare Lane all look stunning.
The all-weather pitch has been christened with a series of football challenges that could have matched anything we’ve seen from South Africa recently! The Academy contractors, Balfour Beatty took on staff from New East Manchester, the architects Walker Simpson and sponsors, Laing O’Rourke and Bovis Lend Lease in a series of hard-fought games in aid of charity. Everyone was delighted with the playing surface, if not with their own team’s performance! I have no doubt this pitch will be well used not only by our own pupils but by sports enthusiasts throughout east Manchester.
The end of the summer term is traditionally when the transition programme starts: preparing Year 6 primary school pupils for the move to ‘big school’. Of course, we’re unable to do this on site this year so we’ve been having our ‘new intake days’ at nearby Sportcity. Our pupils have been making new friends as well as being put through their paces by sports coaches over an intense series of exercises. Everyone’s had great fun! In the evenings of each of the two days, parents and carers have come along to hear about everything from the school uniform to timetables, and from school dinners to library opening hours. I thank everyone who attended for their support and enthusiasm.
As we come to the summer break for pupils this will be the last of my blogs which started way back in January 2009. They have followed the building of the Academy and all the behind-the-scenes preparations that are involved in opening a brand new school. Come back in September when East will be featuring photographs from our opening week at the East Manchester Academy and Beswick Library.
See the East Manchester Academy website here
This month the Principal’s Blog takes a different slant as East editor Len Grant chats to Jane Clewlow, East Manchester Academy’s new Vice Principal for Teaching and Learning.
Jane Clewlow: "I'm looking forward to September."
So which school have you just moved from?
I’ve been at Salford City Academy since 2006 as Vice Principal responsible for the 14-19 curriculum. It’s been my job to set up a new sixth form from scratch. We converted an old shell of a building into a thriving sixth form with, amongst other things, its own hair and beauty salon and construction skills centre.
Before Salford I worked as an Assistant Vice Principal at the newly-created City of London Academy in Bermondsey. It was so new that for the first two years we didn’t even have a school building but taught the children in ‘Portakabins’. It was only when the first intake reached Year 9 that we moved into our brand new school. That was an amazing experience.
What attracted you to the East Manchester Academy?
After London I never thought I’d have the opportunity to start in a brand new school again. But here it is: the chance to influence things right from the start. If you move to an existing school the systems and procedures are already in place, so it takes time to make positive changes. At the East Manchester Academy we can start from scratch and continually look at the Academy from the pupils’ perspective, always asking, ‘What will be best for our pupils?’
The school will start with just one year group. What challenges will that bring?
Unlike established high schools where the Year 7 pupils are the youngest, our Year 7s will be the oldest year group as they progress through the school. Apart from our sixth form students, they won’t have big year groups above them to look up to, no-one to show them how things are done. They’ll be the ones that set the tone for the rest of the school which will be a challenging responsibility for them.
Won’t it feel a bit empty with only 180 pupils rattling around?
Not at all. The Year 7s will have their own ‘home base’ and certain sections of the school will be off limits. We want to make it feel small, safe and secure for them from day one.
What are you most looking forward to?
Oh, meeting the pupils and getting back into the school routine! Although I’m still going back to Salford once a week to teach my A-level students, I miss having the children around and find it very strange working in an office environment. I can’t wait for September!
When did you know teaching was for you?
My love of English came first. It was my reception teacher, Mrs Warburton, who, when I was just five years old, recognised that I had a particular aptitude for the subject. By the time I was 16 or 17 I had a real passion for English and also loved working with young people so the two came together in teaching. I studied English Literature at Lancaster University and completed my teaching training in Manchester before taking up my first post near Warrington in 2000.
And the satisfaction?
There’s satisfaction every day but now that I’ve been teaching for nearly 10 years it’s also wonderful to hear from ex-pupils. I’m in regular contact with a number who have gone on to achieve successes in a multitude of fields: some run their own businesses whilst others are representing our country in Afghanistan.
One of the pupils from the original intake at The City of London Academy got in touch with me recently; he thanked me for the impact I’d had on his early school career. He told me how he now runs three businesses, is a local politician and is about to go to university to read politics. For him to attribute some of his success to me is incredibly humbling. To know you have inspired a young person to go on to achieve great things is what teaching is all about.
I know that all of the pupils who start with us in September will go on to achieve great success and I’m looking forward to be being part of the team that helps them achieve that.
See the East Manchester Academy website here