Walsall school plans major transformation to increase pupil numbers
Designs show how one of Walsall’s elite schools is to undergo a major transformation to help cope with higher pupil numbers.
Walsall Council is currently assessing a proposal put forward by Queen Mary’s High School, based in Upper Forster Street, to provide facilities with an expected capacity increase of more than 200.
The plan includes the demolition of two cottages on the grounds and to replace them with a five-classroom teaching block and remodel the existing Foden House, which currently houses the sixth form.
In the meantime, planners have agreed to let the school erect a double-stacked cabin, featuring two classrooms, as a temporary measure for lessons when work starts on the permanent new facilities.
Year 7 pupil intake will increase by 30 a year from September 2020 and the temporary measures are needed to provide teaching space while work on a permanent extension gets underway.
Queen Mary’s currently has 740 places – 140 of which are in the sixth form. This will eventually increase to 950, with 200 of those being post-16.
In 2019, the Mercian Trust, to which Queen Mary’s is part of, secured £1,814,684 for its building project from the Department of Education’s selective schools expansion fund.
Both the cottages and Foden House face on to Lichfield Street, opposite Walsall Arboretum.
In the application, agents Seymour Harris said while the cottages are locally listed, they have deteriorated and are beyond repair.
They have previously been converted into apartments but were re-acquired by the Mercian Trust as part of these expansion plans for the school.
Of the five new classrooms to be provided in the new block, four will be for general teaching while one will be for ICT.
Seymour Harris said: “Queen Mary’s High School is seeking to gain a detailed planning permission for the demolition of the existing cottages, the construction of a new teaching accommodation block and the internal remodel of Foden House as well as associated site and landscape improvements.
“Although options for retaining cottages were explored, they are in a poor state, with numerous issues relating to the fabric of the building, its thermal efficiency, daylight and acoustics.
“The building is believed to have lost heritage significance along the years due to numerous alterations and interventions which deteriorated significant historical assets (e.g. front door porches, modest side addition), therefore the building is considered beyond repair, unfit for purpose and proposed for complete demolition.
“The existing Foden House currently provides teaching accommodation for sixth form, offices and sanitary facilities while its 1906 rear extension accommodates music facilities.
“It is proposed that the new building will connect into Foden House via a linking corridor/ staircase."
Whilst a temporary teaching block will facilitate the internal remodel of the existing Foden House to a certain extent, while allowing for the normal operation of the school to continue, the project will need to be carefully phased in order to maintain educational provision during construction.