Monday, 24 August 2015

Exclusive preview: Lycée International de Londres - Winston Churchill, in Wembley

500 students will be starting at the Lycée International de Londres - Winston Churchill on Thursday September 3rd. The private fee paying Lycée will operate in the old Brent (formerly Wembley) Town Hall.

I was given a preview of the refurbished building as well as the newly built block last week,.

As the Town Hall is a Grade 2 listed building refurbishment had to take place under strict conditions and I was interested in how the unique features designed by architect Clifford Strange had been preserved.

Acoustic ceilings have been installed in many of the rooms with lighting in sympathy with the original period of the building. The Paul Daisley Hall is now an assembly/sports hall with multi-use games area markings painted on the floor.

The original wood panelling is protected from damage  by a series of boards and the stage can be separated  from the hall by a partition to create a drama area.

The former Council Chamber has a state of the art video wall installed that will enable it to be used for international conferencing. The public gallery will enable parents and visitors to watch proceedings in the hall without disturbing the students.

The glass engraving at the entrance to the Council Chamber has been retained.

The parquet flooring in the old Committee Rooms has been restored and the rooms will retain a variety of uses, including formal examinations.

The Mayor's Parlour is now the Headteacher's Office and restoration has extended to the wooden desk and fire place. The electric fire remains in position in the fire place.

For me the most impressive room was the old Town Hall Library. Cleaned up and repainted, but empty of furniture, the room was full of light and the proportions beautiful.

The staircases and banisters remain as they were with some changes in the corridors to enable access for disabled pupils.

Some of the roof areas are accessible from the rooms and one roof garden has been carefully landscaped, albeit with astroturf.

A huge kitchen has been installed with a dining hall for pupils that overlooks landscaped gardens. There are expected to be three sittings for lunch eventually, each lasting 25 minutes, and children will have the choice of a French, international or vegetarian dish. Lunches are included in the school fees.

There are comfortable common rooms for middle and senior pupils which will be equipped with games as well as social seating areas. There will be student coucnls for both lower and upper secondary pupils.

The new block houses technology based subjects with Art, Science, Design Technology and IT rooms furnished and equipped to a high standard.

Outside there is a primary playground with a landscaped area shaded by the huge willow that can be seen from The Paddocks and three different MUGAs.

A unique feature is the running track due to be marked out along the frontage of the building between King's Drive and the Paddocks.

The school aims to be paperless with staff and pupils all having ipads. Secondary pupils will have an ipad each and there will be one between two at the primary level.

Photovoltaic panels have been installed on the roof and the school travel plan will encourage secondary pupils to travel to school by public transport. Pupils have been instructed to walk to school from Wembley Park station along the west side of Bridge Road, crossing at the junction with Forty Lane, and then proceeding right to the school across Barn Hill and King's Drive.

I was told the Lycée wants to cooperate with local schools in Wembley and does not see itself in competition with them. When the Autumn term is underway they will explore potential links with the community including evening classes.

My overwhelming feeling was one of regret that the same degree of care and investment in quality in this private school is not available for our new state schools. The Lycée will inherit a sense of history, permanence and continuity too often missing from our  'warehouse' schools.

And perhaps also missing from our new Civic Centre.

School website (English version)

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