December 20 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
School children may dream of becoming firemen, but few get to study in an actual fire station.
But that was what happened today when Norfolk’s newest free school welcomed students to its permanent home in a former fire station in Norwich city centre.
The Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, which specialises in maths and science and opened in temporary accommodation last September, has merged historic aspects of the listed Bethel Street building with modern elements including hi-tech laboratories and a glass-fronted staircase in the courtyard.
Features which have been retained include the firemens’ poles, although principal Mark Evans, whose office is labelled ‘Chief Fire Officer’, said he had not been given the key to use them.
Other features which have been preserved include the wood-panelled officers’ mess and billiards room, firemens’ wooden lockers, and the huge doors of the tender hall where the fire engines were kept, and which is now used for assemblies and guest lectures.
Dr Evans said: “Our aim was to preserve anything that spoke of heritage or anything important to Norfolk or Norwich’s history or culture, and for other areas to be really high tech.
“I’m particularly pleased that the key spaces of the fire station lend themselves well to the school.”
The sixth form currently has 70 students, half the number Dr Evans has hoped it would open with. He blamed delays in securing planning permission, and described the founding students, who signed up before knowing where the school would be based, as “risk takers and people who believe”.
The conversion of the building cost about £4million, and Dr Evans said it had a maximum capacity of about 440 students.
Members of the public are invited to look around the building at an open evening tomorrow, Thursday April 24, at 7pm.