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£47 million Learning Village opens in Tower Hamlets
posted on 22 January 2010
The Learning Village
The Learning Village

Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School's £47 million Learning Village project in Tower Hamlets, London, has been officially opened.

Following a Mass celebrated at the church of St Mary and St Michaels, Commercial Road, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, declared the Learning Village officially open at a ceremony attended by Bishop George Stack, Chairman of the Diocese of Westminster’s Education Commission,  local civic and faith leaders and the school community. During the Mass, Executive Head Catherine Myers was made a Dame of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great at the order of Pope Benedict XVI.

The Learning Village project, a collaboration between the Department of Education, the Diocese of Westminster and Tower Hamlets Council, has transformed the school's site which now offers outstanding facilities for students and local residents.

The new development includes state of the art buildings – including a sports hall, library and Village Club - for both the school and local community. Close links with the local Church of St Mary and St Michael and the local primary school are being created, as a result of which parents will be able to educate their children from age 3 to 18 on one campus.

Bishop Challoner was the first ever federated school in the country – meaning that it now incorporates three schools (a boys school, a girls school and a mixed sixth form) and seven youth work centres, all looked after by one team of managers.

The school, which has over 1,700 pupils, is named after Richard Challoner, an influential 18th century Catholic bishop – a scholar who worked tirelessly, through education, to help the poor and disadvantaged. Today, the school continues its mission of educating the poor and the marginalised.

Bishop Stack, Chairman of the Diocese of Westminster’s Education Commission said:

“In 1946 the remains of Bishop Richard Challoner were transferred from their burial place in Milton, Berkshire, to a new tomb in Westminster Cathedral. It was fitting that his body should be brought back to Central London where he had been a bishop for 40 years. His commitment to learning and spirituality was matched only by his pastoral dynamism. His commitment to the care of the poor in the London District which existed before the Diocese of Westminster remains a testament to his greatness. Challoner’s passion was learning. He committed himself to the moral, spiritual and intellectual education of priests and people under his care. It is fitting that the school which has borne his name for so many years now celebrates a “Second Spring” at the official opening of the Bishop Challoner Learning Village. It welcomes pupils from the global village which is the new London district. The old bishop would have been proud of that.”

Executive Head of Bishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate School, Catherine Myers said:

“The formal opening of the new buildings in our Learning Village development marks exciting times for Bishop Challoner. The concept goes back some years, but building work finally began in the summer of 2006 and the superb facilities now on offer to our students and the local community are testimony to the vision and hard work by those involved with the project. This is clearly a proud day for all those connected with the school, not least myself. We hope the Learning Village will be a beacon for high attainment and prove a landmark in the school’s growing relationship with its Tower Hamlets community. On behalf of the governors, staff, students and their families, I should like to thank the Diocese and everybody involved with making this project happen and to Archbishop Nichols for finding time in his busy schedule to join us today for the opening ceremony.”

Learning Village timeline

May 2006: Building work begins with site preparation

Autumn 2007: First buildings spanning Lukin Street available to the Girls’ School

January 2008: Sports Hall, New Theatre and other buildings available

Spring 2009: Buildings fronting Commercial Road begin to house much of the school’s administration staff

November 2009: Dining Hall and kitchens open

December 2009: Boys’ School move into new buildings

January 22nd 2010: Formal opening

Final phase in 2010: Village Club and other community facilities plus the all weather sports pitch

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