Original article by Natalie Saunders for the Northern Echo on 18/12/2020.

STUDENTS have been hard at work burying a time capsule to mark the construction of a new teaching centre at their college.

Robertson Construction has commenced work at the award-winning Sedgefield Community College, part of the Newcastle-based multi-academy trust, Laidlaw Schools Trust (LST), to construct an innovative teaching and leadership centre.

A time capsule was buried by head boy, William James, head girl, Hannah Savage and deputy head girl, Bethany Howarth, to mark the event.

The new centre is being designed in partnership with Durham University, and as well as providing additional classroom space for the college, it will become the teacher training hub for Durham University’s PGCE secondary-teacher-training students, enabling them to learn from subject leaders an immersive school setting.

The £3.2m two-storey building will feature an auditorium, five classroom spaces and communal space with a servery, office and toilets.

Pre-construction work began recently with the vision of completing the new building by July 2021 in readiness for handover and fit out, to ensure that the facilities can be used at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

PGCE students from the university are already attending Sedgefield, and the completion of this new facility will mean the existing training programme can be extended across all disciplines to benefit up to 120 students.

It will also provide the opportunity for all LST’s school leaders to accelerate their CPD whilst enabling LST to become a hub of education excellence for the North-East.

Catherine Reading, Associate Professor and Director of Professional Programmes at Durham University’s School of Education, said: “Durham University is proud to be in partnership with Sedgefield Community College and the Laidlaw Schools Trust as we work towards the shared goal of training more excellent secondary school teachers.

“We congratulate them on reaching this point in this hugely exciting project and look forward to continuing to work with them to achieve their ambitious vision for the future.”

William James, head boy, Bethany Howarth, deputy head girl, Hannah Savage, head girl, Garry Hope, Robertson, Peter Snowdon, COO of Laidlaw Schools Trust and Geoff Robinson headteacher of Sedgefield Community College.

Peter Snowdon, LST’s Chief Operating Officer, believes these new facilities will make an enormous difference.

He said: “The Teaching and Leadership Centre demonstrates The Laidlaw Foundation’s absolute commitment to providing students with the best possible facilities.

“The building will look to challenge conventional thinking on circulation, break-out and flexible design.

“The multi-functional spaces will be used for collaborative learning, performances, and examinations for students, as well as being the centre for teaching and leadership development for regional education leaders.”

Speaking about the thinking behind the idea of the time capsule, Headteacher, Geoff Robinson, said: “By creating this time capsule, we are hoping to capture this specific and noteworthy moment in time.

“Some of the items we have buried include a face mask, hand sanitiser, a staff list, a school tie, the Headteacher’s December Bulletin to parents, details of our recent national award wins and a tablet box with an explanation that every student in Years nine to 11 has one.

“Not only do we hope this will give an idea of what society is like today, the items also demonstrate how incredibly determined our staff and students are to aspire to be the best they can be.”

The main contractor, Robertson Construction, one of the UK’s largest family-owned construction infrastructure and support services businesses, was appointed following a competitive tender.

Garry Hope, Regional Managing Director of Robertson Construction, added: “The new facility being provided at Sedgefield Community College with help equip the teachers of tomorrow with the skills that they require.

“Robertson prides itself on playing an integral role in the communities where we work and to delivering high quality facilities.

“We are pleased to be playing our part in ensuring the college can not only continue to provide an excellent learning environment but will have the opportunity to support further leadership and development events.”

The centre has been designed by ADP Architecture of Newcastle and is being majority funded by the Laidlaw Foundation, and the professional team includes AKS Ward, Structural and Civil Engineers, Gardiner and Theobald LLP and KJ Tait, MEP Engineers.