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Top Catholic school opens new 'Rome' building

Ruth Gledhill - The Tablet - Wed, Oct 6th 2021

Top Catholic school opens new 'Rome' building

Julie Etchingham, ITV News at Ten presenter, talks to headteacher Andrew O'Neill at the opening of the new Rome Building. Pic: The Tablet

Catholic pupils at All Saints Catholic College in west London have begun lessons in the school’s new £4.25 million Rome Building. The building, built to meet the needs of the needs of a school that has grown in popularity over the past three years, includes a drama studio, two music classrooms, three music practice rooms and a rehearsal room with a full recording studio. The headteacher Andrew O’Neill also has his office in the Rome Building.

At a launch event to mark its completion, ITV News at Ten presenter Julie Etchingham said: “When you come here as a visitor, the first thing you notice is an atmosphere of upbeat and joyous energy in the staff. And in the space of four short years, with a pandemic thrown in, they’ve not only given its pupils a great education but have refurbished nearly every part of the school. More and more families, both Catholic and non-Catholic are choosing All Saints – it’s increased its intake from 400 to over 700 pupils.

“But on top of a rigorous learning environment, the best and obviously the most important element of our Catholic schools is the faith community they build for our children. Any academic success they achieve, finds its firmest foundations there. So anything which helps foster that, in bricks and mortar – with great spaces like the Rome building – to bring the kids together and allow them to flourish, have fun, and in turn bring joy to others, is invaluable.” 

The new Rome Building. Pic: Brad Holland

 Mr O’Neill, who when he began as headteacher in 2016 promised the students he would improve their facilities, explained the choice of name: “In much the same way that Rome is the centre of the Church, the Rome building is at the geographical centre of the school. But more than that, it is the heart of the school. It is where the children eat together in the canteen, where they grow in confidence together in Music and Drama and where the pray together in the Chapel. Collectively, these things are crucial parts of the formation of our students.”

In a message to parents in the school magazine this week, he explains: “Upon arrival, I was shocked at the condition the school was in, classrooms looked tired with peeling paint and mis-matching broken furniture. Corridor spaces were worn and adorned with graffiti. In essence, the school had gone unloved for a number of years and did not present itself as an exciting place to spend some of the most crucial years of ones education. More importantly, students did not deserve to learn in such conditions.”

He describes how in his first year as headteacher, it was difficult to attract capital funding into the school, principally because the numbers of students at the school had been plummeting for several years, alongside a number of other “difficult challenges” the school faced with regard to its reputation.  

Music lessons in the new Rome Building. Pic: Brad Holland

“The transition to All Saints Catholic College proved to be a defining epoch within the history of the school. The reputation of the school had been improving, but it was at this point that a real momentum gathered behind the school, and with the improved academic success, we started to see more and more families applying to send their children here. 

“During this time we had won multiple bids for smaller capital projects which included completely renovating our science laboratories, our school toilets, as well as installing a new SEN centre. This rising popularity coupled with the move from four forms of entry to five, meant we had a need to expand the facilities on the school site. Following an application to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, we were successful in our bid to expand the school; it was necessary to do so.” 

Initially, they were granted £3.5m for our project but this grew to £4.3m.

Singing lessons in the new Rome Building. Pic: Brad Holland

The building was developed with a team of architects from 3BM and the project management company Fusion and built by ACS Professionals in Construction. The entire project included also in an entirely new RE department, the full refurbishment of the library, upgrades to three of the maths classrooms and the installation of a food technology room.

"As I write this in September 2021, I am really proud of what we have achieved, not only in the past two years, but in the past five years.  I promised our school community that I would improve the facilities, this has been achieved at a rate that I would never have even dreamed of in September 2016. I am pleased that as students join our school community, they come to a school that has been well cared for, where inspiration adorns the classrooms and corridors. This is just the beginning of our journey, with the relentless drive and energy set to continue, all for the benefit of our students,” says Mr O’Neill.

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