Downham Market Academy welcomes revamp to its library and learning zones

Inside one of the new learning areas at Downham Market Academy is principal Jon Ford. Picture: Ian B

Inside one of the new learning areas at Downham Market Academy is principal Jon Ford. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

An academy has benefited from a £140,000 revamp to its canteen, library and learning areas.

Downham Market Academy, in Bexwell Road, has been able to triple its library space as part of the investment, which includes £100,000 environmental improvement grant from the Department for Education and £40,000 available for capital investment.

The canteen area has also been increased from 180 seats to 240 – although the 1950s-style design with colourful, high-backed means it can actually seat up to 320 pupils.

The old cloakroom areas – which used to become crowded with pupils during break times – have been transformed into 'learning zones', where there is space for students to sit and work in small groups during lessons or socialise during lunch. There are also iPads which they can borrow to use in the space during break times.

Principal Jon Ford said the improvements had 'massively changed the school'.

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'I don't know whether the rainbow coloured canteen with 50s diner seats is my highlight or the new library zones which are tripling our library capacity,' he added.

'What was delightful, however, was seeing the students walk around with huge smiles and the word 'wow!' on their lips.'

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Mr Ford said the newly-designed canteen area and learning zones made it much easier to manage break and lunch times, as there is now more space to accommodate students.

That has also been heped by the fact break times are now staggered, so that social areas are less busy at any one time.

He added that the new learning zones also helped to support teachers in the most modern learning methods.

Like many schools, Downham Market Academy – which converted to an academy sponsored by the College of West Anglia in September – has been moving away from a lecturing-style of teaching, so that tutors instead support students during group work activities in lessons.

Mr Ford added: 'I definitely felt we had bitten off more than we could chew with the 14 building and upgrading projects to complete over the summer holiday. As these involved flooring and decoration in major areas like the canteen and library, any one of them could have stopped us opening on time.

'I'm sure the students did not realise that some of my site team worked round the clock – literally until midnight the night before term started to ensure all went well.

'However, thanks to a huge number of mainly fantastic local tradesmen and our own team, the site was not only ready but a fantastic new look awaited the students on day one.'

What do you think about more schools becoming academies? Write to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email

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