Pupils have their say on site rules as £4.3m project gets underway

Youngsters at a North Yorkshire primary school are helping to shape site rules as construction of their £4.3m extension and building refurbishment progresses.

Athelstan Community Primary School in Sherburn in Elmet will double in size in a 60-week construction programme to tackle oversubscription and meet growing population demands.

Now, the Sewell Construction team behind the project have held site safety workshops with the children, helping them to understand what is involved in the building work being carried out next to their playground and asking for their thoughts on how they would like the team to behave on site.

Sewell Construction Development Manager Josh Donnelly dressed as industry mascot Ivor Goodsite to bring colour to the classroom presentations delivered by Site Manager Paul Armitage.

Headteacher Karen O’Donnell said: “The workshops went really well. A lot of the children didn’t recognise it as a building site because it’s on our school site, so it was great to raise awareness that it can still be hazardous and dangerous.

“It really brought it home to the children that, even though it’s school, they can see things happening and it’s not our site until it’s handed back.

“Sewell is the fourth contractor we have worked with in the past five years and this is the first time anyone has done anything with the children.

“It’s made a lot of difference because they don’t call Sewell ‘the builders’. They call them ‘Sewell’.”

Working on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council, construction began in September this year and is expected to be completed by September 2017.

A brand new playground has already been created for the children, complete with hoarding and small windows for the youngsters to look through as the project develops.

As part of the workshops, goody bags were handed out to the pupils and they are designing posters containing site safety rules, with the winning designs displayed on the playground hoarding and prizes for three winning children from each year group.

As construction progresses, the Sewell team will organise site tours so the children can see their new extension taking shape, as well as decorating, plumbing and bricklaying workshops to provide hands-on involvement for all ages.

Karen said: “We are very excited about the project that’s going on at the moment. It will mean the school will double in size.

“It is essential we provide the best opportunities for the children of Sherburn in Elmet. It’s very much a growing village and this school has been oversubscribed for some time.

“The extension we are having built means we can provide modern, good-sized classrooms, wonderful grounds and extra facilities, such as a bigger library and small teaching areas for withdrawal groups.

“We are really excited about working with Sewell and we have a good relationship with them.

Some of the things they have done with the children have been really interesting and our children are keen to see the product that Sewell are going to finish.”

The presentation was delivered to four different year groups within the school and youngsters were encouraged to ask questions while learning about the various aspects of the site, such as diggers and scaffolding.

Year five pupil Jonathan Eldridge, nine, said: “I’ve enjoyed having a sneak peak of what is going to happen to our school, and it has built up some excitement.”

Year six pupil Evie Johnson, 10, added: “We’ve been learning about how to keep safe on the building site at our school and I enjoyed seeing the mascot Ivor Goodsite because he was really cool and funny.”

Site Manager Paul Armitage said engaging with the children is all part of the Sewell culture and values.

He said: “The school is located right next to the building site, so it’s important they are all aware of what’s involved in that.

“We are effectively invading their space for 60 weeks, so we hope to be able to show them how a project comes together.

“We’d like everyone in the school to be part of the journey and feel actively involved.

“The site rules decided by the children will be incorporated into our sub-contractor inductions and all of our sub-contractors on site will be required to follow them.”

For more about what we’re doing at Athelstan primary school, click here.