Handover of campus marks end of £51m rebuilding programme

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THE Northumberland Church of England Academy’s Ashington school is now officially up and running.

Children, teachers and project leaders gathered for a ceremony to mark the handover of the Josephine Butler Campus to the academy.

The 1,800-pupil campus, at Hirst in Ashington, is one of three new buildings among the five sets of schools that make up the academy.

The academy is a £51m joint venture by Northumberland County Council and Partnerships for Schools, the government agency in charge of capital investment in schools, with backing from the Church of England’s Newcastle diocese and the Duke of Northumberland, Ralph Percy.

The Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Rev Martin Wharton, the duke and the academy’s outgoing executive director, Phil Hearne, due to leave at the end of this term to take up a new job in London, were among those present at the handover.

The project has led to the construction of new schools or refurbishment of old ones for more than 2,400 children in Ashington, Newbiggin and Lynemouth.

Last Thursday’s ceremony saw contractor Kier Construction hand over the Academy Road building, named after the Northumberland-born Victorian social reformer Josephine Butler, to the county council and the school’s management and the signing of a 125-year lease.

The council’s executive member for children and young people, Lesley Rickerby, of South Blyth, said: “These new buildings are impressive centres for teaching and learning.

“Since the creation of the academy in September 2009 in the existing ten school buildings in the Hirst partnership in Ashington, Newbiggin and Lynemouth, we have charted the progress of the project and have been looking forward to the completion of the new buildings on each campus.

“The academy forms part of the county council’s objective to transform education in Northumberland, for young people and the wider community, today and in the future.”

The academy’s chairman of governors, Rory Wilson, said: “We are delighted to take possession of the new Josephine Butler Campus and look forward to welcoming our learners into this fantastic space.

“I also know that our staff are extremely excited to have the opportunity to work in such an impressive building, and this wonderful facility matches our ambition for exceptional learning and teaching at the academy.

“The Josephine Butler Campus represents the final part of our rebuilding programme and, with the redevelopment of our other four campuses also complete, we now offer all of our learners state-of-the-art facilities in the heart of their communities.”

Bishop Wharton added: “The new Josephine Butler Campus is a practical sign of what can be achieved when the church works together in partnership with others committed to serving and sustaining local communities.

“The Northumberland Church of England Academy will have a crucial role in the Ashington area over the next few years, helping young learners and their families to face some difficult-looking times.

“My prayer is that all who work and study here will be inspired and encouraged by the exciting opportunities we see opening up with the new campus.”