WilkinsonEyre school expansion gets govt nod over £6m Dyson donation

Education secretary Gillian Keegan signed off on the cash injection to expand facilities at Malmesbury Primary School near Dyson’s headquarters on 22 January.

The development could see new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) faculties and room to expand student numbers from 420 to 630, according to the Dyson Foundation, which is funding the scheme.

While plans are still to be submitted to Wiltshire Council, Keegan said the donation would help build world-class facilities for the school, with the scheme designed by WilkinsonEyre, the architect on Dyson’s nearby Wiltshire campus.

Keegan said: ‘I welcome this generous donation from the Dyson Foundation which will support cutting-edge education for local pupils, helping to develop the scientists and engineers of the future.

‘This new centre will provide world-class facilities for pupils in Malmesbury and the surrounding areas to inspire them and develop the skills we need to compete on the world stage.’

The approval comes after Dyson wrote a letter to The Times in October last year, accusing the Department for Education of blocking his donation because of concerns about the impact on nearby schools. No official decision was issued, however.

Responding to Keegan’s decision, Wiltshire Council said on Monday that it welcomed the investment in STEAM education but that it still had concerns about the knock-on effect of adding 210 places to Malmesbury.

The authority’s cabinet member for children’s services, Laura Mayes, said: ‘We have an important responsibility to ensure all our school pupils can access opportunities that inspire them and help them achieve their potential.

‘We have expressed concern about the impact that adding 210 additional places at Malmesbury Primary School could have on neighbouring schools. However, we now have the government’s final decision and we will work with everyone involved to ensure we achieve the best outcomes for all our pupils.’

The James Dyson Foundation has said the £6 million donation is on condition of Wiltshire Council approving the expansion. A timeline for the scheme is not yet known.

Dyson, best known for his innovative vacuum cleaner, announced a further £35 million cash injection to expansion plans at his former Norfolk prep school, Greshams, last year. WilkinsonEyre also worked on the designs.

The foundation has also given £12 million to Imperial College London and £8 million to Cambridge University, as well as awards to more than 400 students as part of the James Dyson Award, a problem-solving competition for students.