'History in the making' for Wigan school

By Simon Hart

A bright new future beckons for St John Fisher Catholic High School in Wigan after it was named among the first wave of schools selected for a national rebuilding scheme.

The 50 schools chosen by the government for the first phase of its £1bn School Rebuilding Programme were announced on 5 February. There will be a total of 500 rebuilding projects over the next decade and St John Fisher will act as a pilot as one of the first schools scheduled to be rebuilt according to the greener, energy-efficient specifications required to meet the government’s net-zero target.

Alison Rigby, headteacher of St John Fisher, said: ‘We cannot express our sheer delight that our young people will have access to modern, state-of-the-art facilities in the future. We all know buildings don’t educate children, people do, but the environment in which children learn and are encouraged to grow is vital in producing decent human beings.

‘It’s great that our school has been identified for this investment. We have a unique sporting heritage – we’ve produced international rugby league, rugby union and netball players and athletes, despite our modest sporting facilities!’

The rebuilt school will feature, she explained, ‘light and airy and spacious classrooms’ along with a new dining hall and canteen providing eating spaces indoors and outdoors. There will also be a new chapel, theatre, fitness and dance studios, and a music room with recording technology. A bigger sports hall and dressing rooms will be complemented by outdoor sporting facilities, which will be available for local sports clubs to hire at weekends.

Mrs Rigby added: ‘This new-build project will boost our curriculum offer and provide fantastic facilities in which our learning community will continue to flourish, and, most importantly, build confidence in our young people because they’ll feel valued and invested in and – ultimately, loved.’

Work is due to start in September this year with a view to the new school being completed by autumn 2023. Mrs Rigby described it as ‘history in the making’ and continued: ‘St John Fisher is one of the oldest schools in Wigan, it’s steeped in history and for many of us holds lots of fond memories. We will be incredibly careful to archive the demolition of our current school buildings and save important artefacts which can be placed into the new school to help preserve our traditions.’

More than 70 per cent of the schools involved are in the Midlands and the North, and there will also be 21 new free schools created by the scheme.