STUDENTS are benefitting from a new dedicated sixth form centre that is transforming the learning experience at a North school.
Contractors have made the finishing touches to the facility at Barnard Castle School, the culmination of four years planning and now being enjoyed for the first time by sixth formers.
Upper and lower sixth form students from across the North-East, Tees Valley and North Yorkshire are being provided with their own work and social space in a purpose-built centre that blends traditional and contemporary features.
In holiday time, the centre will also provide Barnard Castle with a state of the art conference venue for the first time.
Head of sixth form Chris Butler explained: “The aim was to develop further the sixth form as an institution with the very best facilities.
“I wanted it to be an emotive, airy space, where people would draw a breath as soon as they walked through the door.”
Visitors are greeted with a central point mezzanine that reflects the shape of the school shield, a design mirrored in the cut of the carpet.
The centre has been planned to transform quickly from formal study area to comfortable social space featuring tables for dining and booth seating for socialising.
Clever use of acoustic materials allows for individual and collaborative study and multiple activities in the same open plan space.
Wall mounted flat monitors feature news and current affairs programmes and there is a large screen for projected lecture material.
Emphasis has also been placed on the technological needs of modern students with Wi-Fi, PCs, USB charging sockets, electronic room booking tablets and intelligent lockers with thumbprint scanners and charging points for a range of devices.
To boost students’ life-skills there are also three fully fitted kitchen stations, which they can use to develop culinary skills, complete with built-in ironing boards.
A resource area will be stocked with university prospectuses, photocopier and scanner. Integrated sound and visual equipment allows them to hone their presentation skills.
The centre is also home to the director of studies and careers staff giving students easy access to a host of invaluable advice and a venue for visiting speakers from industry, professions and higher education, as well as sessions on the psychology of behaviour, stress management and current affairs.
Developed in what used to be an old playground, the sixth form centre also provides a new school entrance for all students, with a glass spur exclusively for sixth formers, making the facility aspirational for younger pupils.
The centre caters for around 160 students, who are drawn from as far away as Tyne and Wearside, Northumberland, the Tees Valley, North Yorkshire and Cumbria.
Mr Butler said: “The centre enhances the student experience greatly and provides lower school pupils with a tantalising glimpse of what sixth form life is like.”
Head boy Sam Anderson, 18, of Hunwick, said: “We have helped plan the centre so it is fantastic to be able to use it.”
Head girl Kerin Borer, 17, of Romaldkirk, said: “It is a fabulous place to socialise and study and can’t fail to help us as we prepare for our final exams.”
President of the sixth form common room Salma Ali, 16, of Bishop Auckland added: “The new centre is incredible as it has every thing we could possible need.”