Issue 49— December 2001
enters new era
Radical rebuilding works ahead at St. Barnabas
St. Barnabas School in Jericho is about to be transformed. From the second week in January the builders move in to start a £700,000 rebuilding programme all part of Oxfords changeover from a three-tier to a two-tier school system.
St. Barnabas, which is currently a first school (ages four to nine), will become a full primary school (four to eleven). This means that in 2003 the year four children instead of going to St. Frideswides will stay until year six and then transfer straight to the Cherwell School.
This will bring the total number of pupils from 200 to around 250, and require a bigger school. The reconstruction will produce four new classrooms two to replace the current temporary ones (the green portakabins) and two more to accommodate the extra classes. The development will also add other amenities such as a computer room, a larger staff room, and alter the hall to produce a new curtained-off storage area that will house a collapsable stage.
The new classrooms will be built largely on what is now the playground to the east of the school. But the children will still have plenty of room to play. A new hard playground will be laid on what is now the community rec on the corner of Jericho and King Streets. And this in turn is being transferred, with smart new climbing frames and swings, to a corner of the school field on Hart Street and Great Clarendon Streets.
The playground switch will be the first stage of the redevelopment hopefully completed by the end of January. This change, which has been planned for several years, has finally been agreed after extensive consultations with neighbouring residents. The classrooms should be finished in June, and the rest by September.
St. Barnabas catchment area includes much of the city centre, Jericho, and the area to the north of the city, which helps give the school a strikingly international atmosphere. Some parents are visiting academics while others work at the Radcliffe Infirmary or OUP. The current roster has children from Australia, for example, Bangladesh, China, Germany, Japan and India. At a recent international evening, says head teacher Hilary Hiorns, we had the children say hello in all the languages they knew. This came to 29 from Arabic to Zulu. For those children who arrive speaking little English a teacher comes in twice a week to give special classes.
The city-centre location also allows children to enjoy the benefits of Oxford. They can walk to the Ashmolean Museum, for example, or the Pitt Rivers, or the ballet, or the theatre, or to Port Meadow.
St. Barnabas is a Church-aided school, which means it has a Christian ethos, but it also welcomes children from other faiths including Muslims, Jews and Hindus. In November, for example, some children made pots for the Hindu festival of Diwali.
The redevelopment is the most extensive work on the school since it was built in 1977 to replace the original Victorian school which dated from 1854, most of whose buildings survive today as School Court on Great Clarendon Street.
There had been suggestions to build the new school on an out-of-town site and bus the children to it. Thanks to strong local resistance, however, this plan was shelved and instead the necessary land was cleared by demolishing several blocks of terraced houses. This produced enough space for the school and the field a rare example of a greenfield site created in a city centre, though the occasional brick still pushes its way through.
From the outset, the school was planned as a Jericho amenity. Local groups can use the school hall in the evening since the original design ensured that it could be locked off from the rest of the school. People can also use the school field: the gates are open after 4 p.m. and at weekends. There are disadvantages to this, with occasional minor damage to the roof and windows. However, the local community along with parents and governors, gives overwhelming support to a caring, happy and successful school.