50th anniversary heralds new era for ‘spaceship’ school

When students first entered the quirky Wreake Valley Academy in 1971 it must have felt like going into a spaceship, according to current head teacher Tim Marston.

By Nick Rennie
Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 4:50 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 4:54 pm
Wreake Valley Academy head teacher Tim Marston with students in the refurbished school theatre EMN-210324-105627001

Designers based it on a Messopotamian ziggurat - a pyramid-like structure with receding levels - and it is safe to say there are few other schools in the UK which look anything like it.

And while the outside of the building remains the same, around £700,0000 has just been spent on enhancing and refurbishing large areas of the interior

The ageing theatre has been completely refitted with 225 seats in a cinema-style and the main atrium, or foyer, space is now a light and modern hub at the heart of the school.

The quirky Wreake Valley Academy building, which is 50 years old this year EMN-210324-105840001

The dining area has undergone a total transformation with additional bench seating and American diner-style booths.

A dedicated ‘inclusion centre’ has also been created for students who find communication and social interaction particularly challenging.

Every classroom will be redecorated and refurbished over the next year, taking the total upgrading investment up to around £1.5million.

Mr Marston, who has been in post for just a year, told the Melton Times: “It’s really nice to come in and feel like you’ve got an opportunity to approach it like a blank canvas.

“We’ve involved students in the decision-making processes and that’s something they’ve really taken on board.

“There is a real investment in the school from the community.

“So many people use it for sport and activities and performing arts at the weekend so it is important to make it so that the school, which started off as a community college, still really serves the community.”

Mr Marston, who is also head of Roundhill School at Thurmaston, feels the changes represent a bright new era for Wreake Valley Academy, as it clocks up its 50th year.

Student numbers are also increasing and things are most definitely on the up.

“It’s fair to say Wreake has been a bit of a poor relation for a few years,” said Mr Marston.

“No money spent on the place and a dramatically falling roll.

“Two Septembers ago they only had 113 kids in year seven and in its pomp it would have had 240 every year.

“There are around 210 kids coming in September this year so we are now able to spend some money on the place and look after specialist facilities.”

Almost the first thing Mr Marston did when he took over the school was to send all students home with the onset of the pandemic.

More youngsters are now choosing to attend Wreake Valley Academy, including many more from villages to the west of Melton in the Charnwood district.

This allowed more staff to be taken on, including 15 newly-qualifed teachers

Mr Marston explained; “Over the last few years Wreake ended up taking quite a few students who were late applicants from the city who had not got their first choices and this year, having done lots of work, lots of students are now coming from the villages into the school, which makes it worth us running properly sustainable buses for the next few years to make sure people can access us, which is great.”

Students are enjoying the new-look facilities inside the school, especially the diner-style refectory area which encourages them to linger longer and interact more.

A proper 50th celebration is planned when lockdown eases later this year at a school which now make as a big an impression inside as it does from the outside.

Mr Marston added: “We have a very strange building but it has a bit of history to it.

“It must have looked like a spaceship landing when it was built but we are very lucky to have it.

“Some of the parents had been to the school when it looked as it did before inside, as had their parents, and on open evenings it is the first time they have seen it look different in 50 years.

“So it’s really nice to get that wow factor.”

Families interested in sending their children to the academy can visit www.wreake.bepschools.org for details of open events or call 0116 2641080 to enquire about the limited number of places available for the year starting in September.