New Junior School and Hub Grand Opening
Withington’s new Junior School and Central Hub were officially opened yesterday, Wednesday 30th September 2015, during a Royal visit by HRH The Duchess of Gloucester to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the School’s foundation.
The Duchess was escorted on a tour of the school’s impressive new buildings by Headmistress, Mrs. Sue Marks and was accompanied by the Lord-Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Mr. Warren Smith; The High Sheriff of Greater Manchester, Mrs. Sharman Birtles and Mr. Grahame Birtles; The Rt. Worshipful the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Paul Murphy and The Lady Mayoress, Mrs. Anita Murphy, as well as representatives from Withington Girls’ School including the Chair of the WGS Trust, The Lord Lee of Trafford, the Chair of Governors, Mrs. Elisabeth Lee and the Deputy Chair of Governors, Mr. David Illingworth.
As part of her visit, the Duchess was treated to a choral recital by Junior School pupils, before observing an IT lesson in the new building. Her Royal Highness then went on to visit the new Zochonis laboratory, one of the school’s three state-of-the-art Chemistry laboratories, which have been upgraded to university specification as part of an overall enhancement of senior school facilities at Withington.
Headmistress Mrs. Marks revealed that plans have been drawn up to improve facilities at Withington still further, and Development Director Mrs. Toni Leden outlined details of the next phase of redevelopment to Her Royal Highness. Representatives of the School’s pupils, alumnae, parents, staff, benefactors and governors were introduced to the Duchess, who also admired examples of pupils’ work in Design Technology.
During the formal ceremony, which took place in front of pupils and staff in Withington’s Arts Centre, the Duchess unveiled a plaque commemorating the opening of the new Junior School and Hub. She was presented with a copy of the School’s 125th Anniversary book, Towards the Light, by Head Girl Radhika Saggar and received a posy of flowers from seven-year-old Tara Sumra, the youngest pupil in the School.
The Royal visit officially marked the completion of an extensive £5 million building and redevelopment project; the largest-ever single capital investment in Withington’s history, which was timed to coincide with the 125th anniversary of the foundation of the school.
The new Junior School, which has provided additional pupil places and currently houses around 125 girls, has eight new classrooms configured over two stories, with a spacious ground floor reception and quiet area, leading through to a large multi-purpose Hall overlooking the playing fields beyond.Girls and staff alike were full of praise for the development’s sense of space, light and airy interiors and calming ambience throughout. First impressions from delighted WGS Juniors included, ‘magnificent’, ‘amazing’, ‘welcoming and warm’ and ‘a spacious white day dream’. One Year 5 pupil commented: “When I walked into the new Junior School building for the first time, I thought it was so shiny, new and modern. I also thought I was really lucky to have this great space to learn and to enjoy my education!”
Another striking feature of Withington’s new development is the construction of a glazed ‘Hub’ providing an attractive space for access to other parts of the School as well as for meetings, exhibitions, displays, musical recitals and other extracurricular activities. The senior school accommodation has also been enhanced; in keeping with the founders’ vision that Withington should offer girls a robust grounding in the sciences, aspiring scientists will benefit from the complete refurbishment of the two existing Chemistry laboratories, with the addition of a brand new third laboratory (named after former Chair of Governors and benefactor, the late Sir John Zochonis) and a dedicated separate Sixth Form Chemistry study area.
Headmistress Mrs. Sue Marks commented: “It is wonderful that these important new buildings and refurbishment works have been completed in 2015, the 125th anniversary of the School’s foundation. It seems very fitting that we are not only future generations of Withington pupils. The new facilities will transform the learning of our girls in a number of subjects, providing for practical, hands-on activities and giving huge amounts of extra space for girls’ independent learning and social interaction alike”.