Guest Column: New building is still inspiring us after five years

Mark Cottingham, principal at Shirebrook Academy.
Mark Cottingham, principal at Shirebrook Academy.

If anyone wants an example of how moving into a new building can help a school, then the past five years at Shirebrook Academy would make for an extremely good case study.

That is the length of time, to the exact month, that we have been operating from our wonderful facility in Common Lane, which replaced a crumbling 1960s building on the other side of our site.

Now, visitors walk into our reception and go ‘wow’ at what they see, we have a great reputation and we are full.

The school has also become the pride of Shirebrook, the community uses the sports facilities extensively outside school hours and we also have ever-strengthening ties with Stubbin Wood Special School, which is co-located with us in our building.

What’s more, thanks to the care shown by our students and the hard work of our site staff, the building is still in excellent condition.

For me, school buildings send out a strong message about how much society values young people’s education.

A modern and well-resourced building shows that we have invested in them and their futures, but an old, crumbling, building says this is how much we think of you and your education, and it isn’t a lot.

Speaking as someone who once taught a class in a temporary building that had a hole in it so large a dog could walk through it – which did happen one morning – I understand all too well how a bad learning environment can affect students’ ability to learn.

And although you can have bad teaching in a good building, I know how this school helps endorse the quality of what we do.

None of our current students remember the old building but many of the staff do and, even now, when someone complains about something, someone else will soon remind them of the old building, which puts it into context.