The Long Eaton School celebrated this week the official opening of its new astronomy facility, The Malcolm Parry Observatory. Mr Parry, former chair of governors at the school between 2002 and 2010, and Anu Ohja, Space Academy Director at The National Space Centre, were guests of honour at the opening ceremony on the evening of January 17th. The event was also attended by Jessica Lee, MP for Erewash; Councillor Kevin Miller, the Mayor of Erewash; Professor John Coyne, Vice Chancellor of the University of Derby; and many students, staff, governors and friends of the school.
Guests had the opportunity to tour the observatory and observe the planet Jupiter and four of its moons through the main telescope, as well as to visit exhibitions of art and photography from the school’s Sixth Form students, take part in practical “hands-on” science activities and view a fantastic collection of meteorite samples on loan from Graham Ensor of Derbyshire Astronomical Association. The school’s flute ensemble also performed at the pre-event reception.
The observatory, which has a custom-built four-metre dome, houses a 16-inch Meade telescope and a Hydrogen-Alpha solarscope (for daytime observation of the sun), together with imaging hardware and software. It will be possible to broadcast live and captured images electronically within the school’s local area network and externally via the internet.
Headteacher Neil Calvert said “This is a unique and enormously exciting development for the school and our community. Engaging young people and their families with science is a key element in our work to raise aspirations, and even a few minutes spent in the observatory on a clear night can be enough to spark the awe and wonder that can begin a lifetime’s interest. The investment we have made, with the very generous support of grant funding from the Wolfson Foundation, has enabled us to build a research-quality facility with instruments capable of supporting astronomers from absolute beginners to professionals.”
Construction work on the observatory began in August 2011. It is part of a development which also includes an ICT and New Media suite and a specialist classroom for Photography. The architects, Gino Lombardo Associates, and main building contractor, Carter Construction, are both local Derby-based companies.
Use of the facility is being incorporated into programmes of learning for Science at Key Stage 3, the GCSE courses in Physics and Astronomy and the A Level Physics course. The school will also host students from other schools around the region, particularly to support the observational element of GCSE Astronomy coursework, and hopes to work with local HEIs to provide experience for initial teacher trainees.
The school has been developing provision for family and community learning in Astronomy over the past two years, and this programme is now being enhanced and developed to incorporate use of the Observatory. In the same week as the official opening, the school also ran two BBC Stargazing Live events – The Moon, featuring Dr Dan Brown from Nottingham Trent University, and Astrobiology, featuring Dr Lewis Dartnell from University College London.
1) The Long Eaton School is an 11-18 mixed comprehensive school in Derbyshire, UK. It became an Academy in April 2011.
2) The School was judged at Outstanding by Ofsted in each of its last two inspections – February 2006 and January 2009.
3) The Long Eaton School became a Specialist Science College in 2003, and a commitment to excellence in Science forms a key element of its work to raise the aspirations of students and their families. A specific focus on Physics in recent years has seen the development of Astronomy provision as well as student visits to the large hadron collider at CERN and the Russian space programme at Korolev City. Uptake and standards in the subject have risen significantly over this period.
4) Funding for the Observatory dome, and astronomical equipment, has been supported by successful grant applications to the Wolfson Foundation and the Royal Society.
5) Malcolm Parry was a Governor for 19 years, and Chair for 8 years, a period which included the two Outstanding Ofsted inspections, the rebuilding of the school under a PFI scheme, a change to Foundation status and the initial decision to pursue Academy conversion.