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'A genuine sense of optimism': Students and teachers settling into life at Abbeygate Sixth Form in Bury St Edmunds




Students and teachers have been settling into life at a new state of the art Bury St Edmunds sixth form college which, when full, will house close to 2,000 students.

Abbeygate Sixth Form, in Beetons Way, started welcoming students into the purpose-built college last month, a dramatic change to the situation back at the start of 2019 when 230 learners were studying in temporary accommodation as the new premises was taking shape.

David Gartland, principal at the college, said that since opening last month, the atmosphere and mood had been very positive, especially given current circumstances.

David Gartland, principal.
David Gartland, principal.

He said: “Since day one, people have come in with a genuine sense of optimism.

“In recent times students, from across the country, have been through a period of great uncertainty but their attitude, commitment and enthusiasm has been fantastic.

“They have hit the ground running and adapted to sixth form really quickly.”

A graphic of how the new college looks.
A graphic of how the new college looks.

It is a period of introductions at the moment, and students, parents and teachers will all meet for the first time at next Thursday’s parents evening.

Mr Gartland said he was looking forward to welcoming families to the new facility.

“I’d say to any parent that I met, that we have created a highly professional learning environment that is set in a purpose-built facility,” he said.

“Our teachers are subject specialists in their field and we provide exceptional pastoral support to ensure we reduce any barriers our students may encounter whilst studying towards their A-levels.

Abbeygate Sixth Form site during construction.	Picture by Mark Westley.
Abbeygate Sixth Form site during construction. Picture by Mark Westley.

“Collectively we will support your son or daughter to best prepare them for the next stage of their life. Everything is here for them to be a success.”

The new facility cost £32 million, and Mr Gartland said he was filled with a ‘great sense of pride’ to be heading up operations.

“Being provided with a brand new £32 million state-of-the-art building is so significant for the region and I feel a great sense of pride to be able to help shape the future of education in Bury and beyond,” he said.

Mr Gartland said he was filled with a ‘great sense of pride’ heading up operations.
Mr Gartland said he was filled with a ‘great sense of pride’ heading up operations.

The building houses science laboratories, art, textiles and photography studios, separate dance and drama spaces – a theatre and sports halls will be completed shortly.

Currently, the college has around 600 students attending and by 2025 hopes to be at capacity, teaching 1,750 young people.

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