Politician Ed Miliband declared the new St Mary’s Catholic Academy building “absolutely amazing” on a visit to Derby recently – just days before the rebuilt school reopened following an arson attack three years ago. The school was destroyed by the fire in October 2020, has been rebuilt as the most environmentally friendly school in the UK.
Mr Miliband is Shadow Minister for climate change and said the green credentials of the new building in Broadway were “extraordinary” and would be a blueprint for the future.
St Mary’s is the country’s first biophilic school and has been built as part of a pilot project by the Department for Education. Biophilic design focuses on connecting those inside with nature, with the goal of promoting physical and mental health.
The school reopened on Monday, 4th December and pupils, who have been housed at St James’ House in Mansfield Road, had their first lessons there.
Mr Miliband, who visited several days before the formal opening, said: “That school is the business. Its quite an extraordinary building with its net-zero approach, solar panels, air source heat pump, green roof and also it has this amazing emphasis on the natural environment. It is a real model and I have learned so much from it.
“We have a green prosperity plan which is a big investment in a green future for Britain and this is exactly the kind of thing that this is about. It’s good for the climate and also for the children. It’s about a brilliant learning environment and learning about nature and a warm school.”
Mr Miliband said he would see a future Labour government going in the same direction but doing “much more”. He added: “This is definitely Derby leading the way. Our proposed £28 billion investment is about the schools of the future and the right investment for the country. It’s so exciting.
“One of the things I am interested in is decarbonising public buildings including schools and of course investment in green schools will give schools more money at their disposal to pay for extra staff and resources. It’s a really interesting blueprint for us.”
Amanda Greaves, Executive Headteacher at St Mary’s, said: “I can’t quite believe this day is finally here. I am so delighted for the children, staff, parents and wider community as we begin the next chapter in the new St Mary’s, the greenest school in the UK. It has been an absolute privilege to be part of this incredible pathway project.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has played a part in supporting us during the most challenging 3 years; our dedicated staff, our loyal parents/carers, the St Ralph Sherwin Trust, Diocese of Nottingham and the people of Derby. We have appreciated your love, guidance and support throughout this time. I am looking forward to seeing the environment flourish over the coming months and using the tech to measure the impact of the stunning surroundings on pupils’ educational journey, as well as their physical and mental wellbeing.”
Bella Atkin, Year 3 class teacher, said: “It feels a bit surreal to be here but it’s really special. It felt quite nostalgic pulling into the site but once you are in it’s totally different. It’s absolutely beautiful, we are so lucky.
“I think the best thing about the new building is being able to see all of the outside areas from all of the buildings and everything is integrated. We have over 100 trees, the trim trail and lots of benches and everything feels calm and relaxed. Everyone is just excited to be here.”
Kevin Gritton, Chief Executive of the St Ralph Sherwin Trust, said: “This move means so much to the St Mary’s community and we are delighted for them after such a long and challenging journey.
“We would like to thank all of the staff, governors, parents, carers and pupils who have pulled together and worked so hard during this difficult time. This fantastic new eco-friendly building will serve generations of children for years to come.”
Peter Giorgio, Director of Education for the Nottingham Roman Catholic Diocesan Education Service, said: “This is a momentous day for everyone connected with St Mary’s and we are thrilled that they have moved into this incredible new building, where the staff will continue to provide children with the very best Catholic education and care.”