School prospering after brave decision
ROCKED by the withdrawal of crucial funding when the government changed in 2010, Westhoughton High School is now flourishing after radically overhauling its facilities.
The school took the drastic decision to axe its sixth form in the summer to save cash — with interest in it declining — and now hopes a new, brighter learning environment will boost its mixed record of GCSE results and encourage pupils to maximise their talent.
In 2008, Westhoughton High’s headteacher Phil Hart was planning for the future in the knowledge that a windfall from the Building Schools for the Future programme would soon be on the way.
Two years on and just two weeks before work was set to start, the coalition government axed the scheme and it was back to the drawing board.
“We were faced with a huge challenge when that news came through but we have got funding from other sources and are now in a great position,” said Mr Hart, aged 51.
The extensive redevelopments include a new reception and canteen while every window has been replaced to create more light and cut energy bills.
Four classrooms have been knocked through to make two larger ones, while walls and ceilings in the main blocks have been repainted to create a lighter, more welcoming environment.
The school has worked closely with Bolton Council and received lottery funding, work which resulted in the bulk of the 30-month period of renovation work being completed just before pupils returned earlier this month.
“We pay attention to what our student body has to say andwhat they think should be improved and that’s what we have done,” added Mr Hart.
“We have already seen enhanced levels of engagement and our GCSE results should benefit also.
“The kids should wake up and be motivated to come here on cold winter mornings which was hard before these changes.”
Those results were slightly hit last month, but the 53 percent of pupils who achieved five A*-C grades including English and maths is significantly higher than the 44 percent who did so in 2009.
Westhoughton High also achieved a “good” Ofsted report in 2011, a position Mr Hart expects only to be strengthened by this wave of new developments.
One casualty of the work has been the school’s sixth form, which shut last year due to economic reasons, with town centre colleges luring many students away. But, with 980 pupils on the roll, the school remains a community focal point, with 95 percent of pupils living within two miles.
Many had parents and grandparents who also attended the school and Mr Hart said many of them have been delighted by the renovation work.
Head girl Sally Wood, aged 15, said the “massive” changes have transformed the school even since she started in 2009. “It feels more spacious, it’s a much nicer place and the toilets were unusable before but now they’re modern and clean,” she said.
The developments also have a poignant reference to the past. They have named their revamped, state-of-the-art canteen as the Miner’s Diner, in reference to the 1910 Pretoria Pit Disaster which killed 344 Westhoughton and Wingates miners.
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