Local Face: Philip Mitchell

The 1990’s have produced a magnificent new resource for Wendover and its surrounding villages in the form of the new John Colet School. This has always been a community school and the new developments reinforce this commitment.

As the song says, “Nothing comes from nothing” and the person we have to thank most for leading this project to its successful conclusion is Headteacher Philip Mitchell. In September 1984, on his first morning in post, he was very surprised to receive a telephone call announcing the result of a structural survey which had taken place during the summer holiday. The County Surveyor had reported that the buildings would be condemned within 10 years.

The fight was on. Clearly a case had to be made to rebuild the school. As always, the Governors, Chaired by Tony Mogford, were determined that the integrity of Wendover’s school campus should be enhanced, not destroyed.

Five years ago the architects took up the challenge of rebuilding a school from its heart. They wanted to preserve the ambience of the original concept including existing pathways and bridges to allow first floor communication. The staff were asked to predict the educational needs of the twenty first century.

Since its opening in 1956, the school had had many extensions giving good facilities but now was an opportunity to rationalise the siting of different departments. The whole school is carpeted so the atmosphere is quiet.

The new Adult Education Office will be at the front of the school for much easier access. The design incorporates lighting and security features to allow more flexible evening use. The range of evening courses available will be enhanced, for example there are two rooms equipped with PA.

The new school hall is slightly bigger than the old and features tiered seating for an audience of 200+. This gives good sight lines from every seat. After morning assembly it can be used as a lecture theatre or if it is needed as an open space, the seating concertinas back into a recess. Backstage facilities, including Green Room are to a very high standard. Refreshments can be served to the audience in the foyer.

Bucks County Council no longer supplies a school meals service but the school was determined to make proper provision so it has used its own money to create “the gallery” which overlooks the hall and will incorporate a hot meals service from September. The needs of pupils with packed lunches are also satisfied. A competition will be organised for pupils old and new to design a sculpture for the open air circular space in the middle of the school. The Architect Jeremy Wagg will be the judge. The school has a Design, Technology and Art Suite fully capable of interpreting such a commission.

The rebuilding has proceeded with the minimum of disruption to the normal running of the John Colet School and other schools sharing the site. However, in September and October, the access roads and final landscaping will be finished. This means that at the start of the academic year access from Wharf Road will be very restricted. The bonus will be a vastly improved road system and more car parking space by the end of half term.

Another great benefit which has already been announced is the covering of the swimming pool. This is a joint venture with Wendover Swimming Association and will mean all weather access to the pool both by the school children of Wendover and members of the Association.

The John Colet School has always had a commitment to its local community and Headteacher Philip Mitchell is keen to use the buildings and grounds to their fullest potential. We thank him for all his efforts on our behalf.