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Bohunt Horsham School Opens

The school is the first development on the Mowbray estate (©AAH/Alan Wright)

Published on 1st February 2021

The District has a new secondary school, with the opening of Bohunt Horsham. Situated on the new north Horsham development, recently named Mowbray, the school welcomed pupils for the first time after the Christmas break. AAH visited to interview Headteacher Georgette Ayling...

When did the move happen? It was a prolonged process. We moved everything out of the temporary site at Arun House in Hurst Road, in the week leading up to the Christmas break. The first day staff were at the new building was Tuesday 4 January. After an INSET Day, we had three days of remote learning from 5 – 7 January. There’s a lot of statutory compliance involved, so before we could allow students on site, staff had to know about the fire safety protocols and additional things like operating the gas taps in the Science labs. 

What happened on the final day at Arun House? On the last day of each term, we have a restoration day. The school community restores the building to how it was at the beginning of term. The last one was more unusual, as pupils saw their chairs and desks being taken away by the removals team and transported to the new site. Restoration day is one of my favourite events, as I get to walk around with a megaphone! Also, it teaches children about stewardship. It's a privilege for pupils to have a new school, but that comes with responsibility. In 50 years’ time, this building will belong to future generations and we all have a duty to maintain it. 

When did the pupils first step inside it? Monday 10 January. The previous week, they went back to the temporary site for a COVID test, as the government asked all students to do an on-site test before returning after Christmas. It was important that the children’s first experience of the new school wasn’t putting a swab up their nostrils. So, they came along on the Monday and were in awe. Was there a first pupil inside?Mason was dropped off at the site early and was the first pupil in the new building. Jake, another of our pioneers (founding Year 9 pupils) was the first in the temporary site back in 2019.  

There must have been a lot of excitement amongst the children? Especially for the founding pupils. The original intention was for the school to be at the temporary site for just a year, with those pupils able to visit the new north Horsham site while it was being built, before moving in at the start of Year 8. Of course, there were delays because of the pandemic and we now have 450 pupils across three year groups. It has been impossible to bring them all over for a tour, so most hadn’t even seen the building until they arrived for their first day of lessons. I was waiting outside as the first bus arrived, very excited! 

Are most pupils coming in by bus? The majority of children are, because the new bridge over the A264 has been delayed. Those living close to the site can’t safely walk or cycle to school until Easter, when the bridge is complete. So every morning, five buses go out and collect 355 pupils, then drop them back home at the end of the day. Our staff have joined police and community support officers to ensure no pupil attempts to cross the carriageway. West Sussex County Council has been very supportive. We’re not a local authority school (Bohunt Horsham is part of Bohunt Educational Trust) but are part of the community and WSCC has recognised that and provided assistance, while the Department for Education has arranged the buses. Wates (building contractor) have also been very accommodating in difficult circumstances.

What did the pupils do on the first day? We took them inside in year groups. Year 7 went to the sports hall, Year 8 to the dining hall and Year 9 to the library. From there, the form tutors collected the pupils and took them to their new classrooms. It has been a voyage of discovery for all of us, finding out what’s behind each door, but on the first day the pupils didn’t even know where the toilets were. So the morning was about orientation, navigation and an induction to our new routines. 

What are the highlights of the building? The library at the temporary school was tiny and I wanted the new one to be a focal point. When you arrive, it’s the big glass structure that hangs above Reception. It’s an all-through library, meaning that it’ll used by both the primary and secondary school, and gradually we’re filling it with books and making it our own. It’s not a silent library; it can be used as a social space as well as by those who want to sit quietly and read. Many schools have moved towards Learning Resource Centres with computer suites, but our library is traditional, with just books and sofas. On the academic side, we have a robotics lab which is very exciting, as it’s geared up for engineering programmes, with a demonstration table. 

Are classrooms bigger than usual? The Department for Education has a “scheme of allocation” for newly-built schools and within that schools can decide how to allocate space. So if you want three small rooms and one bigger one, you can. I have seen schools experiment with ideas, even using three classrooms in one large space in one instance. We decided to move the lockers outside so they don’t infringe on the corridors, which has freed up space to make classrooms slightly bigger. There’s a little extra space that allows for more flexibility and innovative teaching. 

What considerations have been given to the environment? There are three wings to the building and one is covered by solar panels, with eco-friendly lighting and ventilation used too. The building management system is designed for modern use, with motion sensors meaning we don’t have to walk around turning off lights. The primary school will have a woodland walk area, where we’ll be encouraging planting, as we have set ourselves a target of increasing biodiversity on the site, compared with the agricultural land previously here. We have time to create natural habitats, with existing tree lines maintained and new wildlife pathways created. 

What still needs to be done in terms of building? Phase two of the development will include the main hall for assemblies and performance space. Performing arts are important as we encourage children to express themselves and the arts are a big part of that. The next phase also includes the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) department with sensory rooms, as well as sports fields and additional playing space. We already have the sports hall and Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) which caters for everything from badminton and basketball to dance and bounce classes. Phase two is scheduled for completion around Easter.

How many pupils does the school have? The secondary school has a capacity of 1260 pupils and we currently have 450 (in Year 7 – 9), so we have plenty of room to grow. Our first two years are half size by design and will stay that way. Our third year, which started Year 7 in September 2021, is a full intake of 240 pupils across eight tutor groups and we will carry on with that in future. The primary school plans to have two forms in each year, with the nursery offering 50 full-time places. 

When will the primary school and nursery be open? Both are being built in the next phase of development. West Sussex County Council are in talks with Legal and General, who are building the wider Mowbray development. There are a lot of factors to consider, which will determine the education provision, but both should be completed by Easter 2023. 

Will the ongoing development at Mowbray have an impact on the school? Of course, we are in the middle of a construction site and there’s no getting away from that. However, the school was always going to be part of a busy and vibrant new community. The sports hall acts as a buffer for the construction and the school is designed so that it’s protected from the worst of the noise. Most of the housing and facilities - like the proposed Morrison’s supermarket - are planned for the south of the site and there’s only a handful of classrooms on that side of the school. Bohunt also has its own internal ventilation system that blows in fresh air, so we can maintain the right climate.  

What challenges lie ahead? We have worked closely with Wates and are also in constant communication with Legal and General with regards to the infrastructure, such as the bridge and site access. They key is communication and we’re not afraid to ask for what our school community needs. For now, we are delighted to be here after three years in temporary accommodation. Lots of people didn’t think this could happen, even by January 2022, yet here we are!


Further information: www.bohunthorsham.com