Monday 02 August 2021

Former Amsterdam prison opens its doors to 950 school children

The cells have been turned into offices and classrooms. Photo: Bibi Neuray – Photo Republic

A former prison, which held members of the resistance during World War II and more recently housed Syrian refugees, opened its doors to almost 950 children on Wednesday – as the new home of the British School of Amsterdam.

The building on Havenstraat, in the Oud-Zuid district, has allowed the privately run school to consolidate its facilities, once spread across three locations, into a single site. The school was founded in 1978.

Work to expand and convert the building included retaining the domed central hall and galleries, while adding a new gym and high-tech science labs. Two of the cells have been preserved as a reminder of the building’s history. Resistance heroine Hannie Schaft, or het meisje met het rode haar, was imprisoned here before her execution.

Head teacher Paul Morgan told that the project had been extremely challenging at times, particularly given the coronavirus pandemic. ‘But the fact we have succeeded says more about our community than anything else,’ he said.

The school takes in children from the age of three to 18 and teaches the English national curriculum, including GCSE and A Level exams in the last three years. Some 22% of the school’s pupils are Indian, 15% are from the UK and 12% from the Netherlands.

The prison was finally closed in 2013 as one of a number of prison closures in the Netherlands.

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