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Friday, 8 September, 2000, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Millionaire's gift to former school
pupil using computer
The school wants to improve its computing facilities
A community school in a deprived area of Rochdale, Lancashire, is hoping to win specialist technology college status - thanks to a millionaire former pupil.

Computer services entrepreneur and philanthropist Peter Ogden is providing Balderstone Community School with the 50,000 it needs to submit a bid to the Department for Education.

The sponsorship came about after the school's head teacher, Derek Wiggett, contacted Mr Ogden after reading a newspaper interview with him last year.

Mr Ogden, co-founder of Computacenter, who has set up a scheme to send talented children from less-well-off families to fee-paying secondary schools, had mentioned in the interview that he believed his former school - Rochdale Grammar School - had become an adult education college.

Peter Ogden
Peter Ogden: Impressed by school's plans

But the school had in fact become a local authority school - Balderstone Community School - in 1969, so Mr Wiggett wrote to say so.

As a result, Mr Ogden flew in by helicopter to visit, and after spending a day reminiscing, decided to put up the 50,000.

The school is currently finalising its bid, and expects to hear in January if it has been successful.

It would take up its new status in September next year, receiving an additional lump sum of 100,000 from the government, as well as 120 per pupil per year for four years.

Reunion displays

Mr Wiggett said: "Before this happened, we were considering applying for specialist technology status, but we would have had to go looking for sponsorship.

"The chances of us finding one sponsor who could give us 50,000 would be pretty remote. We would have had to find 50 from the odd business, and it would have taken us years.

"Mr Ogden spent about five hours at the school. He had a good look round the buildings, although certain classrooms are different now.

"We had been having our 2000 reunion, so there were displays up, and he saw a photograph of himself as a pupil."

If the school is successful in its bid, it plans to use the extra funding to "enhance" its curriculum for both the pupils and the community.

New skills

It wants to offer more vocational courses, as well as improve facilities in subjects such as science, technology, information and communications technology, and maths.

It also plans to give disadvantaged groups in the community access to its facilities, giving them the chance to learn new skills.

Tim Simmons, director of the Ogden Trust, said Mr Ogden had been impressed by the school's plans, and was happy to enable it to submit its bid for technology status.

After leaving Rochdale Grammar School, Mr Ogden studied for a physics BSc and a PhD in particle physics at Durham University, then went into investment banking via an MBA at Harvard Business School.

He is spending 25m to fund bursaries at schools around Britain.

The project is now in its second year, funding bursaries at 26 schools. There are plans to expand to fund bursaries at about 40 schools.

The bursaries are for pupils entering school at age 11, and will support the holders through to their A-levels.

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See also:

20 Jun 00 | Education
Specialist schools 'better, faster'
20 Jan 00 | Education
Specialist schools push ahead
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