Pakefield High School is an “acorn starting to grow”
Building work has officially begun on the site of Lowestoft's new high school.
Pakefield High School, due to open in September, is being built on the site of Pakefield Middle School, off Kilbourn Road. Ground was broken during a special ceremony on Monday - five months after Suffolk County Council controversially granted planning permission for the 900-pupil school.
Despite contention surrounding the project, including ongoing concern over the location of the new school, the creation of Pakefield High is seen as a key part Suffolk County Council's major overhaul of the current education system. All middle schools in Lowestoft will shut in July as part of a county-wide School Organisation Review (SOR) to change from a three to a two-tier system.
When Pakefield opens in September, there will be 360 pupils from Years 7 and 8 attending lessons at the school and 'Phase One' of the building work should be nearing completion.
Suffolk has provided more than �12m for phase one - which will eventually become the middle section of the high school, but a question mark remains over funding phases two and three.
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'The funding is a high priority for us,' said Perry Linsley, head of the new school.
'Firstly, so we don't end up with half a new school and secondly, it will be more costly if we pause between phases. We have everything we need on site now; the building team and the architects, and it makes sense to press ahead.'
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Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who attended the ceremony on Monday, said: 'I've made the relevant sounds to ministers and as soon as the appropriate funding becomes available we'll be there making a bid for it.'
When all three sections of the new building are complete and the middle school has been demolished, Pakefield will be large enough to take up to 900 pupils and hopes to specialise in engineering as well as performing arts.
Mr Linsley said: 'It's a very exciting time.
'Specialising in engineering is particularly exciting in this area considering the expansion of the engery sector. We want this school to be about community and we want local businesses to be involved whether that's through mentoring or work experience.'
The school has so far employed 30 members staff - about two thirds of the workforce. Louise Jackson, former assistant headteacher at Benjamin Britten High School, took her place as deputy head in January and will be conducting more interviews over the coming weeks.
'We've got a good mixture of local teachers and people from further afield,' said Mr Linsley.
'But ultimately it's about learning and getting the right people to deliver that where-ever they come from.'
When plans for the school first emerged Sport England, a government body, lodged an official objection over the reduction in the amount of playing field space. Since then, Mr Linsley and the governing body has signed an agreement with Kirkley and Pakefield Football Club to use their grounds off Walmer Road - about a 10 minute walk from the school site.
Confident that the new Pakefield High will raise the bar for standards across Suffolk, vice-chairman of the govenors David Foster added: 'It feels like at long last we're moving forward. We've had this vision of what kind of school we want Pakefield to be and now we can see the acorn starting to grow.
'It's all coming together.'