Aylesbury’s newest school – St Michael’s Catholic School, which contractors completed just a few weeks ago [5 August] – has proven to be a learning experience for the team that built it.

The school’s £24 million, 68-week construction has given an education to 14 young apprentices and achieved a massive 303 weeks of combined training experience.

“Twelve of them are apprentices on existing programmes with us,” says June Wilkinson, BAM Construction’s Education and Community Co-ordinator, who helps to place young people on the right career path. “The other two, Oliver and Anthony, are brand new apprentices.”

Oliver Southam, aged 19, from Aylesbury, is a shared technical apprentice who has assisted project manager Declan Galvin to manage the organisation of his team of sub-contractors.

Said Declan, who has employed over 1200 people during the course of the build:

“I started as an apprentice myself thirty years ago, and I know what it means to have somebody to help you as you find your feet and apply the theory. This is an increasingly technical profession – we have used a complex suite of digital technology to help us model and create the school for example – but it still needs people skills and practical experience to apply that technology.”

Anthony Ball, also 19, completed his carpentry apprenticeship on St Michael’s, and he has been taken on with one of BAM’s sub-contractors, Horohoe.

The school has reaped many other learning benefits, before a single pupil enters a classroom.

BAM, which built its first scheme in Aylesbury in 1955 when it built parts of Eythrope Pavillion for James de Rothschild, has reached out to other learning institutions such as West Herts College, assisting its civil engineering department with professional development.

It has also worked with the Head of School, Anthony Palmer, to tour around 50 pupils around the building at different stages of the development to help them learn from the activities.

Mr Palmer says:

“BAM has been extremely accommodating by inviting eight different winners per half term to come and tour the site with me. In all, 48 pupils (nearly 50% of the year group) have been able to experience a tour of the building during different stages of its development. The team taught pupils about how projects as large as this are planned and delivered. They ran some excellent workshops for the whole school back in November.”

Mr Palmer and his pupils have also buried a time capsule, containing memories including school photos, transition booklets, parish and school newsletters, prayers written by the pupils, games and toys that they like to play at break and lunch and the odd quirky thing such as the packaging used by the school caterers.