St Monica’s opens new school building

A new £5.2m sixth form college designed by architects Cassidy & Ashton opened this month in Prestwich, north Manchester.

The 250-place 26,000 sq ft centre, part of St Monica's Roman Catholic High Scool in Bury Old Road, was funded by the Learning & Skills Council before its demise.

The building contains facilities for vocational training or advancement to university in hospitality and catering, hair and beauty, theatre production and performance, digital imaging, art and design and sports science. There is a professional kitchen and restaurant, hair salon and nail studio, gym with fitness equipment, full-size theatre with sprung-floor dance area and an 'apartment' with kitchen and bedroom for students to learn hospitality and independent living skills.

Lawrence McBurney, architect and associate director at Cassidy & Ashton, which has offices in Preston and Chester, said: "The sixth form centre is set away from the main school building to give students a sense of independence and all the facilities are of the standard that would be found in a professional place of business.

"All spaces are designed to be completely flexible to enable the sixth form to be used to its maximum potential and to allow for changing teaching methods which evolve over time. Consideration was also given to how the building could be used by the local community. For example, the restaurant can be opened to the public via a separate entrance and the theatre can be hired out for shows or conferences to generate income for the school."

Frank McCarron, head teacher at St Monica's, said. "The vocational courses are based around a recent audit of employability in Manchester and so reflect areas where our pupils will be most likely to gain a job in the city. For example the digital imaging programme was directly influenced by the newly-created positions at Media City.

"The building itself looks and feels so different to other colleges and I think that is a major plus point."

The two-storey building has a BREEAM Very Good rating. It is fully wireless and is designed to be free from corridors, with learning spaces radiating from a central common space.

John Turner & Sons was the building contractor and construction took 13 months.

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