Cobham Free School celebrates the grand opening of its permanent site after years in temporary accommodation

On Friday 2 July 2021 the senior leadership and trustees of Cobham Free School were delighted to welcome The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP as guest speaker at the, socially distanced, grand opening of the permanent site. Mr Raab delivered his speech to guests including school and community representatives, attendees from the Department for Education, building contractors, Willmott Dixon and members of the project delivery team. He received a tour of the new building and cut a magnificent cake baked by the school catering team, offering a toast to mark the special occasion.

Speeches were also given by Charlie Clapham (Head Boy), William Shipp (Deputy Head Boy), Jessica Ward (Junior Head Girl) and Yanis Osmali (Junior Head Boy), who spoke eloquently and with great pride about their new facilities and their experiences of the journey to develop the school. Founding proposers: Julia Rangasamy (trustee); Rafil Khatib (trustee); Howard Morris (Chair of Governors) and Michaela Khatib (Executive Head) also spoke, alongside Ian Edwards (Director) from Willmott Dixon.

Pupils from across the junior, senior and sixth form departments entertained the guests at the ceremony, which was held outside in the new senior courtyard. Their musical talents were showcased with performances of orchestral and choral items, and excerpts from the school productions.

The original bid for the free school was submitted in May 2011, with the vision to bring best practice from both state and private sectors, offering a strong focus on music and sport, combined with an academic, knowledge-based curriculum. The final completion and occupation of the superb permanent site in Cobham is a significant milestone after a decade of extremely hard work by the project team. The new state-of-the-art facilities include a smart sports wing, with dance/fitness studio and sports hall, and a performing arts centre, with recital room and professional, fully-equipped auditorium, seating 520 people.

The completion of the permanent site will now allow the expansion of the school in September 2021, with the junior department doubling in size and senior/sixth form growing from three to four forms of entry. Lower school pupils (Reception and Key Stage 1) will be based at the Old Police Station site (existing junior school building) and the upper juniors (Key Stage 2) pupils will move onto the new main school site with senior/sixth formers, in a newly resourced wing. Across all departments, the school will be able to provide education for 1064 children at capacity.

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Photo credit: Elaine Boles. Left to right: Howard Morris (Chair of Governors), Julia Rangasamy (trustee), Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP and Michaela Khatib (Executive Head).

Rt Hon Dominic Raab, MP stated:

“I was honoured to attend the grand opening of Cobham Free School’s permanent site, marking the end of a decade-long journey to bring an all-through school to Cobham. The completion of Munro House will ease pressure on local school places. The new facilities will provide opportunities for pupils to excel academically, as well as in music and sport. This fantastic achievement is a testament to the vision of Headteacher Michaela Khatib, and the dedication of the school’s staff, governors, trustees and local parents.”

Michaela Khatib, Executive Head stated:

“The grand opening was such a joyous occasion which will be remembered as a highlight in the school’s history. We were delighted to welcome the Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP to join us for the event and to share the occasion with so many people from the community, who have supported our project over the years. The pupils contributing to the ceremony were a credit to the school, giving superb musical performances and delivering eloquent speeches. We are thrilled with our new permanent site and would like to thank everyone involved in its development, including the Department for Education, all on the project team and our contractor, Willmott Dixon.”

Howard Morris, Chair of Governors stated:

“The event was a huge success and a very fitting way to celebrate our ten year journey to develop a school for Cobham. We were pleased that Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP was able to join us to mark the occasion and to see so many attendees who have supported the development of the school over the years. We are particularly grateful to the Department for Education and Willmott Dixon for their work to deliver the school, which will benefit so many generations of children for years to come”.

Ian Edwards, Director, Willmott Dixon London & South region commented:

“We were delighted to attend last week’s official opening at Cobham Free School. As a former Willmott Dixon local construction office, the project has always held extra significance to us and therefore it was a real pleasure to see students enjoying the state-of-the-art learning facilities.”