MP James Wild with John Hirst, left, and Andy Johnson, executive headteacher.

The coronavirus lockdown has provided the opportunity for a major £1m makeover of Hunstanton’s Smithdon High School.

The premises have undergone an overhaul both inside and out with the help of Department of Education funding allocated to improve school buildings and grounds.

Smithdon is an architecturally important school and the birthplace of the so-called Brutalist style of architecture after the Second World War, with glass and steel replacing traditional bricks and mortar.

An estimated £1m has been spent updating and improving  the Downs Road facilities. 

The food technology area, two classrooms, two ICT suites and two art rooms have been given a complete makeover, as well as pastoral and administrative offices.

A large conference room, teaching space and art exhibition area have been created and new roofs on buildings at the school, part of the West Norfolk Academies Trust.

“We know Smithdon is already a very distinctive looking place but we’re really excited about how we’ve transformed it, to make it even more forward looking and aspirational,” said headteacher John Hirst.

“We want to make a visual statement that our school is an exciting, dynamic place to be, and this positivity is reflected not just in the quality of the facilities and buildings, but the teaching as well.

“I’m particularly excited about C Block, where the art studios are. 

“For a long time it’s been too hot in the summer and too cold in winter, but we’ve given it a complete overhaul, with new windows, flooring, insulation, light and heating, as well as a fresh coat of paint.

“With the transformation of C Block, a new roof and a complete new floor in the sports hall, this is the most significant investment in the school in a very long time.

“When the school was built, its architectural style was pointing the way to the future, so it seems particularly appropriate that after such a time of disruption, this overhaul is making the school, and our art studio in particular, somewhere that once again looks to the future.

“We now have 21st century facilities to go with a 21st century curriculum and some great new appointments coming up,” he added.

“This is the start of a very exciting era for Smithdon so we can’t wait to show off to people how the place looks and we’re planning open activities in October, both virtual and face-to-face, so please get in touch if you’d like to come along.”

Some of the work taking place during lockdown. Pictures: Ian Burt

The school is renaming its buildings after figures from its history, with the exception of the art block, where a competition has been held to choose a name representing the school’s future.

North West Norfolk MP James Wild visited the school last Friday and saw the difference the investment had made.

“Education is key to opportunity and the school’s ethos is all about giving young people chances to learn and develop and be successful. Now we can look forward to schools re-opening fully in September and young people learning once again,” he said.

It is hoped Mr Wild’s visit will pave the way for more investment by raising the issue in parliament and possibly inviting education secretary Gavin Williamson to visit Smithdon to see the transformation himself.