Dear Parents/Carers,

Re: Building and facilities developments at Simon Balle All-through School 

We are writing to make you aware of so many exciting developments already underway and planned for the near future for the facilities available at Simon Balle – from individual classroom refreshments to whole block developments across the all-through site.

It is first important for us to explain our vision – why these developments are planned and how they will enhance the lived experience of our children, wherever they are on their journey from Reception to Year 13. In 2022 we began working with a firm of architects (indeed, the lead architect is himself a former Simon Balle student!) to develop a master plan for the Simon Balle premises. The purpose of the plan is to provide us with a holistic strategy to improve the school’s buildings and estate in the most efficient and effective manner possible, with each step along the development journey further enhancing existing facilities whilst also laying the foundations for future improvements. The master plan aims to deliver these improvements in three key ways:

  • Increasing capacity – we are increasing the space that is available, both in terms of classrooms for our secondary phase, and importantly for everyone with our sports hall. Capacity increasing allows not only the best possible opportunities during the school day, but also continuation of our outstanding enrichment programme where space can be a challenge!
  • Improving quality – New buildings and refurbishments are painstakingly designed to the most modern standards for acoustics, lighting and ventilation to ensure the most comfortable working environment for our staff and students. This is of vital importance to us as the correlation between the quality of work environment and the productivity and mental and physical health and wellbeing of staff and students is well documented and established.
  • Improving teaching and learning resources – New resources purchased to support the breadth and ambition of the curriculum across our all-through school, including enhancements to both equipment and the use of displays. 

So, what is new?

The first steps of the master plan are well underway with £6.9m already invested in expanding and improving the learning and working environment for our students and staff. Already completed projects include: 

  • Critical upgrades and health and safety improvements to cold water services
  • Refurbishment of two student toilet blocks and PE changing rooms – both excellent examples of student voice in action!
  • Site security fencing
  • Jubilee suite 

As with any changes made to facilities on a busy site day to day, work is being phased and planned to ensure minimum disruption. The projects below will give you a sense, however, of further improvements coming soon (please make sure you have a look at the photos at the bottom of the page too – just click on the images to enlarge them)! 

  • Our new four-classroom block (at the back of the playground on the secondary site, looking towards the back field) is soon to be opened. Light and spacious, these are state of the art classrooms, and we are delighted that this will be housing Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) at Simon Balle. It is an incredibly exciting time at Simon Balle where the numbers of students studying French and Spanish at GCSE is increasing year on year; the new block will be opened by our current Year 6 cohort who are currently looking forward to their ‘More to experience’ weeks where they gain an insight into just how much more the secondary phase has to offer them!
  • Our mobile classrooms, currently housing Business and Explorers and IT are being replaced with new, modern buildings. The Jubilee suite is almost ready to house Explorers (Years 3 – 6), with a newly fitted kitchen and bathroom, and with direct outdoor access to the trim trail and Astro. Our new IT classroom is large and fitted with all technology required for the continued success of Computer Science from Year 7 – Year 13. There are some internal movements too for business and other departments – more to follow!
  • Another multi-functional education ‘suite’ is arriving to be placed near to the new MFL block. As a larger space, this supports so many important areas of school life – including a sixth form study area when exams are taking place, and a large space for external speakers – supporting our careers and PSHRE programmes. 
  • Within Art, we are delighted to announce the arrival of our new kiln. This will be a superb addition to our ceramics programme, both within the main curriculum and extra-curricular, primary phase and secondary. Within drama, an investment is being made into new lighting for the drama studio, ensuring the highest quality of equipment to support students of all ages and, of course, importantly at GCSE. 
  • In the Larch, as well as new signage, we are very excited that a bespoke design is currently in process for an important, large history display which will be placed in the centre of the building, around the library walls. Reflecting all units within our history curriculum Reception – Year 6, the timeline will support children in understanding the chronology of historical events so that they can understand sequencing, and ensure that new learning is building on their prior learning of times, places and concepts.
  • We are maximising opportunities to create quality outdoor recreational and educational spaces for all of our students including seating, canopies, landscaping and improvements to our outdoor classroom.
  • Last (for now!), but certainly not least, we are so excited about the building work, due to start imminently, on our sports hall. From badminton to cricket, from netball to basketball, our four court sports hall will not only be a wonderful resource, but will also release pressure on our other multi-use halls and gym, and serve our Hertford community. 

Sustainability is a key consideration and the environment is an important stakeholder in our decision-making. New buildings are designed to consume as little energy as possible (for example, the sports hall will be passively ventilated and utilise sun tubes) and will include solar panels wherever possible. Refurbished or second life materials and furniture are also used wherever appropriate to reduce our carbon footprint and promote a circular economy. The next steps in the master plan will also allow us to decarbonise the site’s heating and an application for a further £2m in government funding was submitted in December 23 to this end.

Safeguarding is, as ever, our first priority, and together with the work last year to add gates and fencing around the whole perimeter of the site, the sports hall will create a professional and welcoming face to the front of the school. 

Financially, all of this is being achieved through: 

  • Excellent work by our Director of Business to apply for government funding – not just our £4m sports hall or £1.1m MFL block, but work that is continuing to deliver essential upgrades to the site’s electrical infrastructure, fire safety and central heating. 
  • Prudent and careful financial management by our governors and senior leaders.
  • PSA funding – here we are so grateful to the whole of the PSA, and every single parent/carer who has supported in so many events every year. The PSA are specifically funding the kiln for Art, the lighting in drama, the Larch history display and the humanities classroom refurbishment which took place in the summer.  

Apologies for such a long letter – we will do our best to continue to provide updates on social media, our website and newsletters, including with many photographs. Following this letter, there will be more communication coming to you in relation to practical updates – for example, where there will be a change of pedestrian routes to ensure the safety of everybody with building works taking place. As you have already read, car parking will be significantly reduced  – but, in essence, this is no different to what has already been shared many times before as our car park is only intended for staff and for visitors to Simon Balle. 

We hope that all stakeholders are as equally excited to read this update, as we are in writing it! 

Please direct any questions to Mr Ayres who is our Assistant Headteacher leading on operations at Simon Balle: 

Yours sincerely,

Mrs Rachel Kirk, Mr Michael Moss and Mr Haydn Walsh

Co-headteachers and Director of Business