Wapping High School gets go-ahead to convert office block to classrooms

Planning permission has been given to convert an empty office block in London’s East End into a secondary school.

It is the first time a converted office block is to be used for a Tower Hamlets school campus.

Permission has been granted to Wapping High School to transform Whitechapel’s former Poly Peck HQ at 153 Commercial Road.

It means the new school opened last month can move out of its temporary premises at a former teacher training college.

The permanent six-storey premises will be ready next September, after a new floor is added for a multi-purpose hall and ‘sky’ garden.

It will have facilities for science, dance, drama, music and performance in what it calls ‘specialist learning zones’.

“We will have zones for different learning structures,” said Headteacher Paul Gu�nault. “Our current Year 7 students are being involved in designing the look and feel of their learning environment.”

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The new school has been set up after a long-running campaign by parents in Wapping for better local education facilities, complaining that they were cut off from the rest of the East End by The Highway, the A1203 heavy traffic route linking Tower Hill with Limehouse.

But the Wapping & Shadwell Secondary Education Trust was unable to find premises in the districts sandwiched between The Highway and the Thames and has had to settle for the building in Whitechapel.

Governors Chair Jon Cheyne said: “Identifying suitable premises has been a major challenge—but bringing this disused building back into use will improve the area.”

Wapping High also sets a precedent for converting commercial buildings for use as schools. Architect Nick Evans explained: “The conversion and extension of this out-dated office building will prove successful. This model should be considered for more education buildings.”

The school, which will eventually take 420 pupils aged 11 to 17, is the first of three to open in Tower Hamlets under the Government’s ‘Free School’ programme, paid for by a direct Whitehall grant from the Education Funding Agency.

Two others opened last month are City Gateway, aimed at youngsters cut off from mainstream schooling and combining learning with pastoral care, and Canary Wharf CET Primary for youngsters with dyslexia and specific learning difficulties.