I have always believed in the importance of the environment in which one works and its potential for either positive or negative impact on achievement. Ever since Fulston Manor opened every effort has been made to keep the buildings in good condition, to ensure that the site is free from graffiti and litter and that staff and students are able to go about their business in an atmosphere conducive to learning. Although all of this seems self evident to me, I have discovered in recent years that these standards are in marked contrast to those that exist in many other schools, something that is emphasised by the fact that so many visitors make a point of commenting on the cleanliness and quality of our environment.
Whilst this attention to detail does ensure that we make the best possible use of what we have, there is no escaping the fact that there will come a time when many of our current buildings will need to be replaced, when repainting and upgrading will simply not be enough. Although present generations of students are extremely well served, plans must be made for the future. Until it was cancelled last summer, our place on the Building Schools for the Future programme was to have provided this investment and quite possibly have seen us move into a brand new school, something we viewed with mixed feelings as, actually, most of us like the site we are on for all its quirkiness.
With this in mind we have commissioned architects to complete a masterplan for the site, which has now been completed and looks splendid. Admittedly, it is made of cardboard and fits together like Lego (!) but it does give a clear idea of what is possible. We are now in the process of once again bidding for funds that will turn a model into reality, if not all at once then over time (the plan is divided into 5 phases to allow for this).
I am certainly not becoming over excited about the current situation as we have been here before and funding has failed to materialise, but am feeling a sense of guarded optimism. The first stage of any such project is planning permission and I am informed that this process includes a detailed environmental study to ensure that any work does not disturb the habitats of any protected species. With this in mind, tomorrow sees the arrival of an expert whose task it is to carry out such a survey, paying particular attention to the possibility of bats. Should he discover any, as we are at the end of the bat spotting season, all plans would immediately be put on hold until late spring when further investigation could occur. Let us hope that the Dark Knight draws a blank and that future blogs will reflect progress towards our target rather than coming to resemble an imitation of Bill Oddie’s Twitcher Diaries.