Official Opening of the High School Leckhampton

On Wednesday 30th November The High School Leckhampton was officially opened by Mr Edward Gillespie OBE, Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire.  

Dominic Burke, CEO of the Balcarras Trust, gave a short speech at the opening ceremony as did Helen Wood, the Headteacher of The High School Leckhampton. The Trustees of the Balcarras Trust, the governors, staff and pupils of The High School, representatives of Gloucestershire County Council, Kier construction and AHR architects were all in attendance.  

Mr Burke used his speech to thank all of those people who had been involved in the project from the start. A copy can be found below. 

We are proud of all of the people from the Balcarras Trust who have worked so hard to bring the school to life. Mrs Wood and her team have done a superb job of transferring the school into their new site. We wish them well for the future. 

Mr Burke Talk at Opening of The High School Leckhampton 

Thankyou Mr Davidson for your kind welcome and could I also extend a warm welcome to the Lord Lieutenant. It is very kind of you to perform this important duty for us today. 

This is indeed an exciting occasion for the Balcarras trust and for all of you young people here. Today marks the official opening of the school. This school began its journey way back in the spring of 2017 when the local authority announced that they would be seeking sponsorship for a brand new secondary school in the south Cheltenham area. 

The governors at Balcarras School thought long and hard before deciding to put in a bid. The first and perhaps most crucial decision we made was to put Ian Davidson in charge of the bid writing team. Ian coordinated the document which ran to 120 pages and involved advice from Chris Healy, former head of Balcarras, the senior team at Balcarras and the governors. I would like to thank Mr Healy for his contribution and also to thank him for his superb leadership of Balcarras between 1996 and 2016 which put the school in the position to be able to put in a bid for sponsorship.  

Eventually three Trusts were shortlisted by the local authority and Neil Baxter, Rosi Shepherd and I represented Balcarras at the interview process. It went well hence we are standing here today. 

Once we were appointed as sponsor the work of designing the school began. We decided to appoint Jeff Arris who is the IT manager at Balcarras as project manager representing Balcarras. This was our second most crucial decision Jeff’s attention to detail has long been legendary at Balcarras but his legend is now well known by colleagues at KIER and Gloucestershire! 

We were involved alongside colleagues from Gloucestershire County Council is selecting Kier as the principal contractor. This was the third crucial decision and again we got it right. I’d like to thank colleagues from Kier particularly John Gorman who led the design meetings with great skill, Jeremy Mann who had overall responsibility for the build and Paul Ingram who managed this great project through to its finish.  

With the appointment of KIER the next big decision was the choice of the architect. Again we had lots of candidates to choose from but the presentation from AHR stood out. Working alongside Matt Colclough, Gary Overton, Dagmara Scott and others was a fascinating experience. We literally started from a blank piece of paper and designed the school step by step. So many times different bits of the school moved location, for example the music department migrated around the building before finally settling just behind this hall and above the Head’s office. I remember on more than one occasion seeking reassurances that the Head would not be disturbed. Mrs Wood they told me you wouldn’t be and I do hope that has been the case. 

Throughout the process of design we were determined to negotiate as hard as we could so that we obtained the best possible facilities for the school. Wide corridors, the independent drama studio, the sports gallery amongst other things, were not part of the original design. 

I would like to publicly thank colleagues from Gloucestershire County Council for their commitment to the scheme and their willingness to listen to our ideas (well demands!) for extra facilities. This is not an exhaustive list but we would like to acknowledge Clare Medland, who had overall responsibility, Rob Barnes, Paul Wakeman, Nick Denman, Gareth Vine and the two Directors of Education Tim Browne and Kirsten Harrison. A particular thank you must go to Tracey Eales who did a superb job of coordinating everyone.  

The final, and probably most important decision we made was to appoint Mrs Wood as Head of The High School. Mrs Wood has done an amazing job of brining this school to life over the past two years. Initially operating on the Balcarras site, the school has now transferred to this wonderful new facility. Mrs Wood we wish you and your wonderful school all the best for life in your new home. 

Dominic Burke, CEO of The Balcarras Trust, 30th November 2022