Stanley Park High School in Carshalton opens

After five years of planning, legal wranglings and a Government inquiry, a new secondary school finally opened in Carshalton this week.

The first students began studying at the £50m, 1,400-pupil, Stanley Park High School on Monday.

The school, built on the site of the former Orchard Hill hospital site in Damson Way, has taken five years to become a reality.

It was originally set to open in September 2010, but was beset by delays due to the project’s size.

Protracted discussions between NHS Sutton and Merton to buy the land led to spiralling legal costs.

And legal wranglings with Benhill Gospel Trust to build a second access road to the site led to a compulsory purchase order being granted by the Government, following a public inquiry.

Headteacher David Taylor said he was delighted when the doors finally opened to more than a thousand pupils this week.

He said: “The school has been five years in the making.

“The new school is one of the best learning spaces in the country. It is carbon neutral and the classrooms are flexible and designed to ignite a passion for learning.”

The school, because of its size, has an innovative design, which sees it run as four schools in one, for pupils to maintain good relationships with fellow pupils and staff within smaller school communities, rather than get “lost” in a super-school.

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As students move up the school they continue to be based in one of the four small schools, but can take options within the other schools, which are themed to focus on different talents and abilities – such as the arts or more vocational trades.

The school’s ethos is to equip students for the real world.

In the first two years of school, about 50 per cent of students’ time is spent learning a skills-based curriculum in classrooms designed to resemble the workplace.

The school includes a full-size running track, a sports hall the size of four badminton courts, extensive IT facilities, drama studios, a car workshop and a beauty salon.

State-of-the-art eco-features include a natural ventilation system, plenty of green, open spaces and allotments and the whole project was carbon neutral.

The school is expected to be at full capacity once the second access road is completed later this year.

Reporter Sophia Sleigh took a trip around the school on opening day: As I wandered wide-eyed around the new avant-garde building it was easy to forget I was in a school.

In fact, the large atrium with panoramic views of the city made it feel more like Google headquarters than a secondary school.

We strolled into four different zones, which were each represented by a separate colour like an episode of the Crystal Maze.

The zones – Horizon, Trade, Performance and World – represent separate sub-schools and each specialise in particular subjects.

In Trade we found a fully functioning garage and in Performance they were making the finishing touches to a theatre.

The excitable youngsters lounging in the open spaces and the modern architecture made it feel like I had spent an afternoon in a modern art gallery.

I could have quite happily sat in the open plan cafeteria, among all the pot plants and read books for hours.

Watch headteacher David Taylor talking about the school at our new Sutton Guardian Extra online newspaper.

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