Building of new school in Harpenden begins

John Gibson, Headteacher pictured with Kate Watson, Director of learning

John Gibson, Headteacher pictured with Kate Watson, Director of learning - Credit: Archant

Construction of a new school for 420 pupils is now underway in the heart of Harpenden, following the demolition of a former youth club and other derelict buildings.

Harpenden Free School will open its doors on the corner of Vaughan and Victoria Roads in September next year.

Clearing of the site’s 1960s library extension along Vaughan Road, the youth centre building and derelict workshops at the rear mark an important step for the project.

The school’s head teacher John Gibson explained that once built, the new premises would mean an end to temporary accommodation for the school’s pupils who were currently studying at the 14th-Century Tithe Barn at Harpendenbury Farm in Redbourn.

The free school is moving from the barn, which overlooks Harpendenbury Golf Club, to a self-contained wing of St Luke’s School in Redbourn for the new academic year.

Mr Gibson said that since opening in September 2012, the school’s roll has risen dramatically.

From an intake of just 20, the school will have about 180 children on its books by September 2014 when it will offer places for pupils aged between four and nine.

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A spokesman for builders Willmott Dixon said the firm was refurbishing the existing old Victorian school building, previously used by Oaklands College and which until recently housed Harpenden’s library.

The 52-week building programme includes construction of a two-storey ‘L’ shaped extension of the Victorian building, a new school hall and eight new classrooms.

Willmott Dixon will, as part of efforts to give back to the community, be offering work experience placements, careers advice and site visits to local young people.

The spokesman added: “This follows our work in the area with Westminster Lodge and more latterly, the new Batchwood Sports Centre.

“The operations director responsible for all three projects lives in St Albans, while his managing director studied at [the former] St Albans Building College.”

Ruth Martin, the school’s chair of governors, said: “These unique buildings will be the hub of our children’s education.

“They and many others have spent hours creating a playful design and it is exhilarating to see this becoming a physical reality.

“We look forward to being a real part of the Harpenden community when we move in next year.”