Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Because They're Worth It: The Pounds 80m Bespoke Comp: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Because They're Worth It: The Pounds 80m Bespoke Comp: News

Article excerpt

Roof terrace, designer chairs, swimming pool - but it's not the Hilton, it's a state school.

The bespoke pupil chairs cost Pounds 335 each. The teacher versions, with armrests and padded seats, cost a cool Pounds 400. The staffroom has its own "housekeeper" who serves breakfast and lunch, and the basement houses a state-of-the-art 25m pool. Welcome to the new Holland Park School in West London, which at Pounds 80 million will become the most expensive mainstream state school when it opens later this month.

Once the flagship of the comprehensive school movement, Holland Park was nicknamed the "socialist Eton" because it was the school where left-wing politicians such as Tony Benn and Anthony Crosland chose to send their children.

Now the school's new building boasts chairs designed by award-winning furniture designer Russell Pinch - called the "Holland Park chair" - and 700 science lab stools that cost Pounds 286 apiece, with the school's name laser-etched on to each one.

The school's opening, which was delayed by more than a month due to late- running construction work, comes just weeks after the Department for Education announced guidelines for all future schools to be designed more cheaply.

Under the new "no frills" school design template, all curves are banned, while glazed walls and translucent plastic roofs are also outlawed. Far from Pounds 80 million, new secondaries are now expected to be built for closer to Pounds 12 million.

However, no such limitations were placed on Holland Park. Headteacher Colin Hall said the new school will send a message to its pupils that they are worthy of investment.

"We want our students to know this is all bespoke. It is not just a new building, it is a new start for the school. We are an outstanding school, but we see this as an opportunity to build on the culture we have here yet further," Mr Hall said.

"We wanted to build something that was not like a school," he added. "Of course, some things have to be in a school but you get some sense that we were giving our students something special."

No expense has been spared in the school's vast new building, from the swimming pool, dance studio and gym in the basement right up to the staffroom, with its Pinch-designed sofas and roof terrace on the top floor.

The price tag dwarfs even the most extravagant school buildings designed by star architects such as Richard Rogers and Norman Foster at the height of Labour's academy programme, which typically cost between Pounds 25 million and Pounds 35 million. …

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