8 September 2016
Over the last 14 months, the St Helen’s site has undergone a complete transformation as the new Junior School has taken shape in the heart of the school adjacent to the School’s pre-preparatory Section, Little St Helen’s. The opening of the building was marked by a colourful display as girls from St Helen’s Junior School and Little St Helen’s formed a ‘human daisy chain’ into and around the building. The daisy has particular significance for St Helen’s as it features on the School’s much-loved badge.
The brand new eco-friendly building has been welcomed with open arms by members of the school community, and especially the girls who have been members of the Junior School Eco Council, actively involved in raising awareness of environmental issues and encouraging environmental responsibility in Junior School.
Pupils at St Helen’s Junior School will be able to enjoy exceptional learning in the large and light classrooms and exciting ‘break-out zones’, to carry out independent research in the state-of-the-art Discovery Centre, and to maximise their opportunities to learn about the natural world on the vibrant and biodiverse ‘living roofs’ which cover the two ‘arms’ of the building and can be accessed from ground level via paths made from recycled rubber. There is extensive provision for specialist teaching in Music, Art, Design & Technology, Science and Drama, and the resources to stage productions and concerts in the Junior School Hall.
Dr Mary Short, Headmistress of St Helen’s, commented: ‘The new Junior School is a beautiful new addition to St Helen’s, and provides a wonderful and modern environment which will promote exciting learning for keen young minds. I look forward to seeing the girls’ imagination and creativity thrive in their new school.’
The ‘living roofs’ are just one of the initiatives which make the Junior School a shining example of environmentally responsible development. The building been designed and constructed to be as energy-efficient and ecologically sustainable as possible: the design incorporates 133 photovoltaic panels on the roof which are estimated to produce 32,000 kW/h of electricity annually, saving over 14 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year and bettering the building’s Target Emissions Rate by 40%. Biodiversity has been encouraged throughout the development: a mostly native selection of plants and trees has been chosen for seasonal interest, textural variety and wildlife habitat creation. This selection of vegetation will offer food and shelter to a host of vertebrates and invertebrates, such as nesting birds, spiders, bees and other insects; a pond and timber deck will create a further wildlife discovery and learning area. The building’s attractive tricolour terracotta rainscreen cladding is another feature which, along with the ‘living roofs’, enables the building to blend in to its surrounding environment.
Girls at St Helen’s have long been actively involved in sustaining and protecting the environment: the Junior School Eco Council, the Eco Elves in Little St Helen’s and the Senior School Green Team ensure that all members of the St Helen’s community are aware of their responsibility to the environment, and that the School continues to meet the standards required to maintain the School’s prestigious Eco Schools Green Flag Award, which was first achieved in June 2010. In addition, St Helen’s girls raised nearly £24,000 for a wide range of environmental charities last year through the School’s annual Calendar Sale and other fundraising events.
The Senior School at St Helen’s has also undergone a remarkable transformation: School House on Eastbury Road, the oldest part of the site, welcomed pupils, parents and visitors at the start of term to a spacious reception area and a suite of seminar rooms designed for twenty-first century methods of learning, along with a comfortable and well-resourced Reading Room, primarily for girls in Years 10 and 11, in the space which was the School’s original Library.
Over the coming eighteen months the School hopes to refurbish and redevelop the three buildings now vacated by the Junior School into a hub for the Sixth Form and Futures Department, an Examinations Centre and a new Music School.
Dr Short added, ‘Buildings and improvements to facilities are important because they provide the space within which every girl can pursue her dreams and achieve her potential. But what makes St Helen’s truly exceptional are the opportunities which we provide for girls to expand their horizons, discover new passions and develop their leadership skills. They are continually leaving their comfort zone and challenging themselves to make a real difference to the School and to the wider world – an attitude to life and work which serves them well throughout their lives’.