School’s ‘decaying’ buildings set to be bulldozed as part of multi-million pound government scheme

A diagram of the school as it is now
A diagram of the school as it is now

A school is set to be transformed in a multi-million pound project which will see several of its ageing buildings razed to the ground.

In a statement released by the government’s Education Funding Agency earlier this month, Tring School on Mortimer Hill was one of 15 in Hertfordshire to be chosen as a beneficiary from the second phase of the Priority School Building Programme grant.

The school relocated to its present site from the town centre in 1956 but the crumbling buildings have seen better days and though no official figures have been released, it is believed the work will cost upwards of £10million to complete.

The school – which with 1,500 pupils on roll is the second largest secondary school in Herts behind Queens’ School in Bushey – was declared ‘good with outstanding features’ after its last Ofsted inspection in January 2014 but was told without major investment, it could never attain the longed-for ‘outstanding’ rating due to its deteriorating facilities.

Currently, the school buildings are either one or two storeys high but the new plans show these replaced with three-storey buildings which will free up space on site for landscaped garden areas, and the new addition of covered walkways will mean pupils remain dry while walking to and from lessons.

The iconic white sports hall ‘dome’ – which was first opened in 1983 as a temporary structure – and its adjoining changing rooms will be rebuilt to include a high-spec public gym which is hoped could rival Berkhamsted Sports Centre and Aylesbury’s Aqua Vale, along with much-needed extra parking spaces.

The swimming pool is not owned by the school and therefore not part of the redevelopment at this stage, as it is operated by Sportspace on behalf of Dacorum Borough Council and is the subject of separate discussions.

But the Beloe block which houses music and drama and the adjoining Desborough Hall – named after long-standing geography teacher Ray Desborough – will remain untouched as the newest part of the school.

Headteacher Sue Collings said: “This is a fantastic moment in the history of Tring School.

“The learning and teaching are well on the way to being outstanding but we have been held back by some of our facilities which are decaying and no longer fit for purpose.

“This timely re-building of so much of the school is going to be absolutely wonderful for all of our students for years and years to come.

“We can’t wait to get into the detail of planning every building and every space so that the students and staff at last have the facilities that they deserve.”

In order to keep the school open and fully operational, the building work will happen in a series of phases over the next five years but the school’s business director Rod Gibberd assured parents the ongoing project would not impact on their children’s learning.

Mr Gibberd said: “At this point in time, we only know for certain which parts of the school will be demolished or radically redeveloped.

“We have created a “masterplan” of the school which shows how we believe it should be designed, but we don’t yet know if the government will agree with us.

“The masterplan places emphasis on the cohesion of the whole site with buildings placed logically and in such a way to create open spaces which are themselves a destination for the students.

“The sequence in which the buildings are demolished and rebuilt is absolutely critical.

“The logical places to start are the sports hall, which is largely stand alone, and the building of a new art, design and technology block to enable the demolition of the existing Thomas block.

“We have been holding our breath for months waiting for this decision and it is the most fabulous news for Tring School, the town and all of the current and future students.”

Mayor of Tring Stephen Hearn said the news was ‘an exceptional result’ and a ‘major achievement’ for the town.

He said: “It’s very exciting and this is going to allow for progress at the school for some time in the future.

“There are quite a collection of buildings on site and some of them aren’t in the best condition. This grant is going to provide the first rate facilities for education that the children of Tring deserve.

“The timing of it means it will happen alongside the development of LA5 to the west of the town. Tring is a growing community and this is another part of the required infastructure that has to go with a growing population.”

The national five-year programme is expected to be completed by 2021 and Education Funding Agency officials will be visiting the chosen schools to discuss funding over the coming months.