Saturday, 12 February 2011

Farewell to the Westbury Centre

If you are reading this, then you probably know me, and if that is the case you may well have visited the Westbury Centre, the home of the Barking and Dagenham ICT in Schools Team for the last 25 years, although I admit that I personally didn't join the team until 1990 when I was appointed to the newly created post of General Inspector for IT.

For all of that time we supported all aspects of ICT in schools, and latterly in Libraries and Museums, from our base in the Westbury Centre in Barking. As ICT grew in importance in education, so the team grew in size and at the peak of the last Government's enthusiasm for ICT in schools, we numbered 30 people, from advisers to technicians and at one time the Council's corporate web team.

The Westbury Centre started out as a primary school at the beginning of the last century and it was not until 1965 that the building became the home for the Barking and Dagenham Teachers' Centre. It is truly a testament to the quality of the school buildings of its day that more than one hundred years later it is now being turned back into a school with a mere refurbishment. The pressure for school places has meant that all available buildings and space now have to be used for school buildings, and it is with great sadness that we saw the last members of the school improvement service relocate to other accommodation in Barking yesterday.

The ICT in Schools Team has found new homes in Roycraft House, the Town Hall, and the Eastbrook City Learning Centre, where they continue to provide ICT advice, support and guidance for schools.

From our perspective, the Westbury provided the focal point for all of our ICT training courses, and support operations, the hub for the £12m ICT TestBed Project, and more recently the Building Schools for the Future procurement process.

Conveniently located near to Barking Town Centre, many people visited us there. We trained hundreds of teachers, we hosted London Grid for Learning sector meetings, we negotiated hard with all our suppliers, we evaluated the latest technology, we entertained overseas visitors and we bonded as a team in a way that only the Westbury Centre could have enabled us to do.

Our first (and last) Interactive whiteboard was installed in the ICT training room on the top floor of the main building, where we ran the innovative year-long RSA ICT Dilpoma course, and all of our early work developing truly fit for purpose interactive teaching tools took place in the Annexe building when we moved the advisory and training parts of the team there, having outgrown our previous space.

So, farewell Westbury, but look forward to another hundred years serving the children of Barking as a Primary School.