Former Stevenage headteacher goes back to old school after £5 million refurbishment

Students stand proudly in front of one of the new buildings at Barnwell Middle School joined by Tony

Students stand proudly in front of one of the new buildings at Barnwell Middle School joined by Tony, Richard and deputy head Paul Barnett. - Credit: Archant

There’s nothing quite like going back to your old school, and for a former Stevenage head that strange feeling must have been even more pronounced.

Barnwell headteacher Tony Fitzpatrick and former headteacher Richard Westergreen-Thorne outside one

Barnwell headteacher Tony Fitzpatrick and former headteacher Richard Westergreen-Thorne outside one of the schools new buildings - Credit: Archant

When Richard Westergreen-Thorne left Barnwell School in 2009, it would have been hard to envisage what now exists.

Today the school has two campuses, with Year 10, 11 and sixth form students taught on the original site and pupils in Year 7 to Year 9 at Barnwell Middle School – which in Richard’s day was known as neighbouring Heathcote School.

Touring the two sites for the first time since his departure, he was clearly impressed.

“For me it is special to see the new-look Barnwell,” said Richard, who also worked for the Stevenage Educational Trust until 2013.


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“I’ve been very impressed with the facilities and I think the two-tiered system puts the school at an advantage and helps give more choice to parents and pupils.

“It’s a very weird sensation to be back. It seems very familiar but completely alien at the same time.”

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Those who haven’t visited the Shephall Green site since Heathcote’s closure in 2012 will be in for a few surprises, too.

The middle school has just undergone a £1.5 million refit of windows, roofs and boiler equipment to go alongside new buildings and refurbishment classrooms, communal areas and toilets.

In total £5 million has been spent across both campuses in the past three years.

Richard was also given a tour around the adjoining Greenside School – which teaches a range of students with complex, severe and profound learning difficulties.

The two schools now share facilities at the Shephall Green site and have been working together on a number of projects, something which had been discussed in Richard’s time at Barnwell.

“It’s great for Richard to come back and see how things have changed,” said current head Tony Fitzpatrick, who was deputy head before Richard moved on. “He left shortly before we realised we weren’t going to have a new school built as part of the government’s Building Schools for the Future programme, but the ultimate goal was to expand and work closely with Greenside so it’s nice for him to see that vision realised.”

Speaking about the upgraded facilities, he added: “I think the environment for students plays an important part however ultimately it’s what goes on in the classroom that makes the difference.

“I think we have made good progress over the past 18 months and i think we will see that in the upcoming exam results.”

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