A sixth form college described as a “jewel in the crown of education” has been granted planning permission to upgrade its out-dated facilities.

Greenhead College in Huddersfield was last week ranked as the 10th best state-funded sixth form college in the UK and the highest ranked in the North of England.

The college specialises in science – the subject makes up 45% of its curriculum – but its science block was housed in buildings constructed of modular concrete blocks, known as Laingspan, which were much used after the Second World War.

The college, which has 2,800 students, was one of the first 50 schools and colleges to benefit under the Government’s £1 billion Schools Rebuilding Programme.

It applied to Kirklees Council to demolish the old Laingspan blocks and the remainder of the science block and replace it with a new four-storey building to house classrooms, dining areas and social spaces.

As part of the scheme the existing changing pavilion would also be demolished and the sports pitch would be reconfigured, car parking would be relocated – though would remain at 157 spaces – and there would be new landscaping.

The new block will be built on the existing car park and the current entrance in Greenhead Road, where cars and students often come into conflict, will be made pedestrian-only. An existing gateway into Park Avenue will be opened up.

The new sports pitch will be made available for community use and will also open to the public on a weekend.

What the new science block will look like

When a pre-application came before a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Strategic Planning Committee in March councillors were critical of the design of the main building with one describing it as a “bit utilitarian.” Another said it was little more than a “brick box.”

Architects and planners worked on the design and the new scheme was deemed much more acceptable though one councillor said he would have preferred natural stone.

Councillors unanimously approved the scheme when it came before the Strategic Planning Committee on Thursday.

College principal Simon Lett spoke at the meeting and told councillors of the college’s success in the Sunday Times Parent Power Schools Guide which ranked the college the 10th best state-funded sixth form college in the UK and the highest ranked in the North of England.

The Daily Telegraph had said Greenhead was the 15th best performing provider for getting young people into Oxford and Cambridge universities – the only provider in the North in the top 15.

Mr Lett added: “Put simply Greenhead is the jewel in the crown in education in Huddersfield, in Kirklees, in the North of England and in the country.

“The problem is our excellent standards aren’t currently matched by adequate enough accommodation. The college has Laingspan buildings and they are reaching the end of their shelf life.”

The new four-storey building

Mr Lett said science made up 45% of the Greenhead curriculum while most other sixth form colleges offered 29% so the best possible facilities were vital.

He added: “At a local level science pays a huge role in the Kirklees economy. Continuation of our science curriculum offer in adequate facilities is therefore crucial to ensure young people are able to obtain and develop skills essential to their career and life chances. This development is long overdue and urgently needed.”

Mr Lett said the design was in-keeping with the heritage of Greenhead and said the facilities were “like-for-like” and there was no intention to increase student numbers.