Former pupils launch campaign to preserve threatened school

Campaigners including past pupils and friends of the former Percy Jackson Grammar School outside the Art Deco building in Woodlands, Doncaster.  Picture: Chris Lawton
Campaigners including past pupils and friends of the former Percy Jackson Grammar School outside the Art Deco building in Woodlands, Doncaster. Picture: Chris Lawton
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FORMER grammar school pupils have launched a campaign to save the Art Deco building where they were taught after hearing it could be flattened as part of a controversial redevelopment programme.

The Outwood Academy Adwick, in Woodlands, Doncaster, is the focus of a planning application which would see old classrooms pulled down and a new £16m school built on one of the playing fields.

According to campaigners, one of the buildings earmarked for demolition should be saved because of its architectural significance and because it is still “perfectly serviceable” for today’s pupils.

Outwood Academy Adwick, previously known as North Doncaster Technology College (NDTC) and Adwick School, was formed in the 1960s when the Percy Jackson Grammar School merged with a local secondary modern.

Protesters want to save the old Percy Jackson building, and have called on council planners to halt any scheme which would see it bulldozed to be replaced with what they called a “characterless box”.

Ken Cooke, 72, who was a Percy Jackson Grammar pupil in the 1950s, has written a book about his old school and said former pupils around the globe were horrified to learn it could be razed to the ground.

Mr Cooke, who now lives in Ilkley, added: “The original grammar school building has not only architectural style, and character, but has many years of useful life left in it.

“The budget for demolition should instead be put towards restoration and refurbishment of the charming premises. This beautiful and useful building needs restoring, not destroying.”

Other former pupils, including people living in Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada, the USA and Europe have all signed an online petition protesting at the planning application.

Blueprints for the new school are currently being examined by the local authority’s planning officers, and the drawings have also drawn criticism from neighbours of the school site.

Wendy Bunton, herself a former pupil at the school who now lives close to the entrance on Windmill Balk Lane, said residents had not been consulted on many details of the new school.

Mrs Bunton, who attended a protest held by the Save Our School campaigners, added: “When we bought our house 25 years ago we backed onto a school field, but the plans show a new three-storey building behind our houses.

“People who live on the lane are not happy, but nobody, not even our local councillors, who are all on the planning committee will discuss it with us.”

The protest by old pupils and the campaign by residents against the redevelopment is the latest in a series of controversies to hit the Outwood Academy Adwick.

Earlier this year the Yorkshire Post revealed that Doncaster Council had ignored its own legal advice in its dealings with the Wakefield-based Outwood Grange school, which was run by “superhead” Michael Wilkins.

Investigations have revealed concerns over Doncaster Council’s payment of more than £500,000 to Outwood Grange, which was called in to run the then NDTC after it was found to be failing by inspectors.

Doncaster Council said residents’ objections to the new school were received and officers were “considering changes”.

Mayor of Doncaster Peter Davies said: “I am entirely sympathetic to anyone who wants to protect the architecture of the school they went to. Decisions regarding the proposals for Outwood Academy Adwick are made by the sponsors, Outwood Grange Academies Trust.

“However, the council is working closely with the Trust and has been asked to manage the project. I am strongly in favour of preserving our architectural heritage.

“Unfortunately, it is not always possible or desirable to do this. In the case of my own school, Thorne Grammar, I was upset at plans for its demolition. There, they did manage to come up with a compromise and kept the front of the building and turned it into flats.

“But the new Trinity Academy is a far better school building and a much more suitable learning environment.”