Work to convert the former Downside Middle School in Newport, commences this week. The site, which was closed as part of the school reorganisation in 2011, will become the home for Barton Primary School, the hub for the West and Central Wight family centre and a new Downside Community Centre.
Mark Snow, head teacher at Barton Primary School, said: “The new site will allow the school to grow to a 1.5 form of entry; providing an intake of 45 places in each year. It will also provide a building more suited to 21st century education, providing more space and flexibility within the learning environment, as well as much improved sports facilities and outdoor space for the children.
“This building also allows for the maintained nursery to be integrated within the main school accommodation, which will continue to enhance the great work that occurs between all phases in the school. This project will give the children of this community a building that meets their needs as they grow and learn.”
The Family Centre, which is managed by Barnados on behalf of the Isle of Wight Council, will benefit from improved accommodation. Co-location with the school and community centre will enhance local partnership working and further improve early help services provided to children and their families.
The Community Centre will benefit by moving into a permanent structure, as it currently operates from portacabin accommodation, and will be managed by ‘Pan Together’, a local community group. Pan Together’s existing ‘Isobel Centre’ will be converted into changing rooms and showers for the local football team, Pan Sports FC.
The new facility will open in September 2016.
The developments at Downside are being funded through £700,000 capital investment from the Isle of Wight Council, as agreed by the Executive in 2015, together with contributions from the Pan Meadow’s developer, Barrett Homes, from ‘Section 106’ monies for community and education use. The investment will be in the region of £1.3m.
Councillor Jonathan Bacon, Executive Member for Children’s Services and Education, said: “It is wonderful to see work beginning at Downside. This facility will provide a more suitable solution that will provide a great community hub for the east Newport community; especially with much better outdoor space for local children. It will be a fantastic community facility that I look forward to visiting once it’s open. I’m very pleased that we could support this venture with capital funding.”
Local ward councillor, Geoff Lumley (Newport East), said: “This project is the culmination of community aspirations resulting from the Pan Meadows development approval six years ago. It was always intended as part of the planning approval for Pan Meadows that there would be a larger primary school on the Downside site. Barton Primary is now a growing and successful school and the move comes at the right time for them. The Childrens’ Centre wants to move with them and the community centre were always promised better accommodation than the current portacabins on a shared site.
“In these financially stretched times this is good news for my community, our local school and young people. My thanks go to the council for supporting this project and for keeping Downside running when it would have been easier to close it.”
Until recently the former middle school site has been temporary host to a council-funded community and learning centre, which included groups such as Way Forward, Family Learning services and the homeless night shelter. The council has supported the groups in temporary residence at Downside to seek suitable alternative accommodation, and continues to do so for those that have yet found a suitable location.
The future of the former Barton Primary School site will be considered by the council’s Executive in May; however, as set out in the Children’s Services Capital Programme in May 2015, it was outlined that any capital receipt from this site should be ringfenced for the relocation to the new site.