In the news - Bryce Wilby

15th April 2011 at 01:00

The only school on the Scilly Isles is currently being rebuilt as part of the biggest educational construction project in the area for 50 years. The man making it happen is Bryce Wilby, head of the Five Islands School. He has spent the past two years overseeing the development, which has cost twice as much to build as it would have on the mainland.

It doesn't sound like an easy building project.

"This is the biggest thing ever to happen to the islands. We can't exactly go down to the building suppliers and get the materials. We estimate a similar build in Penzance would have cost #163;8 million, but our school has cost #163;15 million. Builders have had to come over from England specially to work on the new school, staying for 10 days and then having four days off."

So why bother?

"We have separate primary and secondary buildings on the main island, St Mary's, which were built in the 1960s when the powers that be decided children should no longer be sent off to secondary school in Cornwall at the age of 11, but should stay closer to home. There are no ramps or easy access, so it doesn't comply with any disability legislation. All the classrooms are the wrong shape and size. We needed a proper state-of-the-art facility."

What will the building be like?

"We wanted to create a learning-village atmosphere, so all the classrooms are based around a courtyard, inspired by the colleges at Oxford University. We have got an amphitheatre and palm trees. It's going to be very environmentally friendly, with solar panels, a vegetable garden, a rainwater-harvesting system, and we will recycle as much as we can. The school will have sea views. We have built it into the hillside to be sympathetic to the fact it is in a special landscape."

Did the public spending cuts hinder you?

"We did all the hard work to secure funding through Building Schools for the Future before last year's election, because we suspected cuts would come in. Now we have a landmark building with facilities for everyone. We were lucky to get extra funding from Play England and Sport England, so now the school has extra facilities that Government money wouldn't stretch to. Health and social services staff can now be based at the school, and islanders have their first sports centre."

Who are your pupils?

"There are now 270 pupils in the Five Islands School and this number is set to remain stable. Many are from families who have lived on the islands for a long time. There are around half-a-dozen children in each of the island bases, and all come to board on St Mary's during the week at the age of 11."

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