Robertson Construction has started work at the award-winning Sedgefield Community College, part of the Newcastle-based multi-academy trust, Laidlaw Schools Trust (LST), to construct an innovative teaching and leadership centre. 

To mark the occasion, a time capsule was buried by head boy, William James, head girl, Hannah Savage and deputy head girl, Bethany Howarth. 

The £3.2m two-storey building will feature an auditorium, five classroom spaces and communal space with a servery, office and toilets.  Once complete, it will be used by students who are training to be teachers and studying for their PGCE qualification.  At the same time, the extra space created will help to ease some of the demand faced by the school for additional classroom space. 

Pre-construction work began recently with a view to completing the new building by July 2021 in readiness for handover and fit out so that the facilities can be used by PGCE students for the first time at the start of the 2021-22 academic year. 

Discussions about the new facilities have been ongoing between Sedgefield Community College, LST and Durham University’s School of Education, who already work in successful partnership on secondary school teacher training. As many as 120 of the University’s PGCE students could attend the teaching and leadership facility throughout their training year, as part of their teacher training programme.  

This means that as many as 120 of its PGCE students could attend the teaching and leadership facility throughout their training year, as part of their teacher training programme.  

Their practical experience will be gained working closely with exceptional teachers from Sedgefield Community College and LST’s other secondary academies – Excelsior Academy in the west end of Newcastle and Academy 360 in Sunderland. 

Peter Snowdon, LST’s chief operating officer, believes these new facilities will make an enormous difference all round.  

He said: “The construction of this wonderful, new teaching and leadership centre demonstrates The Laidlaw Foundation’s absolute commitment to providing students with the best possible facilities.  

“Thanks to this new building, the trust will have the opportunity to work with students studying for a PGCE with a view to offering them employment opportunities across its academies.  The school will also benefit from having additional classroom space for much of the week, thereby easing the school organisation issues where communal spaces are increasingly being used for teaching as our pupil roll continues to grow.   

“It also means the school and the Trust will be able to host regional, if not national, education events to support leadership and development.” 

Cllr John Robinson, chair of Sedgefield Community College’s governors, came up with the idea of a time capsule.  Speaking about the thinking behind the idea, headteacher, Geoff Robinson, said: 

“By creating this time capsule, we are hoping to capture this specific and noteworthy moment in time.  It would be very easy to concentrate on the obvious things in 2020 related to COVID-19, yet because this is such a significant period of history we are living through, we also wanted our students to look at the many positives that have come out of this time and provide an insight into Sedgefield Community College’s most recent history.  

“Some of the items we have buried include a face mask, hand sanitiser, newspaper cuttings about the school for the last ten years, a staff list, a school tie, the headteacher’s December Bulletin to parents, details of our recent national award wins and a tablet box with an explanation that every student in Years 9 to 11 has one.   

“Not only do we hope this will give an idea of what society is like at this very special moment in time, the items also demonstrate how incredibly determined our staff and students are to aspire to be the best they can be.  It is this ‘can do’ attitude which has directly led to the creation of the teaching and leadership centre to help raise standards of teaching across a much wider area than Sedgefield.” 

As one of seven academies operated by the trust, the PGCE students studying at Sedgefield Community College will have direct access to all the trust’s secondary students and secondary level teaching staff in LST academies throughout the region, which is a huge resource by any measure, for honing their teaching skills and sharing best practice. 

The main contractor, Robertson Construction, one of the UK’s largest family-owned construction infrastructure and support services businesses, was appointed following a competitive tender. 

Robertson prides itself on the many high-performance educational spaces it has built over the years and as Garry Hope, regional managing director of Robertson Construction explains, the new teaching and leadership centre will now benefit from this wide-ranging expertise.  He said:  

“The new facility being provided at Sedgefield Community College with help equip the teachers of tomorrow with the skills that they require.  Robertson prides itself on playing an integral role in the communities where we work and to delivering high quality facilities. 

“We are pleased to being playing our part in ensuring the College can not only continue to provide an excellent learning environment but will have the opportunity to support further leadership and development events.”  

Catherine Reading, associate professor (teaching) and director of professional programmes at Durham University’s School of Education, said: “Durham University is proud to be in partnership with Sedgefield Community College and the Laidlaw Schools Trust as we work towards the shared goal of training more excellent secondary school teachers. We congratulate them on reaching this point in this hugely exciting project and look forward to continuing to work with them to achieve their ambitious vision for the future.”