Pupils and staff settle into newly refurbished and extended primary school

Pupils and staff are settling into their primary school after a £5.1 million extension and refurbishment was completed, ensuring it can grow in line with the community for years to come.

Athelstan Community Primary School in Sherburn in Elmet has now doubled in size to tackle oversubscription and meet growing population demands.

Sewell Construction has been on site for more than a year to complete the project on behalf of North Yorkshire County Council.

Headteacher Karen O’Donnell said the building is “perfect” to meet the needs of the school going forward and the feedback from staff, parents and pupils has been incredibly positive.

She said: “The building we have now is a building to take the school forward over the coming years. It’s a building we can grow into as the community continues to grow. It’s perfect.

“I carried out a lesson observation this week and the children were asked to think about things which are really good about the school, as well as things which could be improved.

“The things they said could be improved were all tiny and everything they liked included the new facilities Sewell put in, such as wider corridors.

“We have fantastic facilities for the children now and it’s wonderful. You can see the children looking at the field and looking forward to being able to use it when the weather improves.

“Parents love the fact we have three entrances now, as it makes things so much easier.”

Work began on site in September 2016 and there were three phases of refurbishment to the existing building, including a new kitchen, sports hall floor and a classroom extension.

New classrooms were created in the two-storey extension and a lift was installed, while a brand new playground was also created for the children.

Sewell Construction worked hand in hand with the school throughout the project to ensure pupils and staff were included in the development every step of the way.

The team held site safety workshops, helping the children to understand what was involved in the building work being carried out next to their playground and asking for their thoughts on how they wanted the team to behave on site.

One of the pupils, Sophie Booth, six, is blind and Sewell Construction Site Manager Paul Armitage asked his wife, Jules, to convert the school newsletter into Braille to ensure Sophie felt included, enabling her to follow the progress on site alongside her fellow pupils.

Jules has also lost her sight and wanted to help make it easier for Sophie.

Karen said the relationship with Sewell has been strong and positive from the start and the team also played a part in helping the school to maintain a ‘good’ Ofsted rating, as construction work was still ongoing when the inspection took place.

She said: “The Ofsted inspector said the way the school worked together with Sewell was a model execution of a major development, which is absolutely fantastic.

“The support we received from Sewell throughout the whole project, but particularly during this important time, was superb.

“I think Ofsted summed up our relationship with Sewell perfectly and it’s been an absolute pleasure to work with them.

“We held an assembly to thank the team and the children made personalised thank you cards for everyone involved. They knew exactly what job they’d been doing on site over the past year.

“The Braille newsletter also worked really well. Sophie is very special to our school and the fact she could be included in that was the icing on the cake.”

Pupils and staff remained on site during the project, meaning it was a live environment at all times apart from school holidays and weekends.

Paul said: “Everyone at the school was really good to work with and really understanding.

“Apart from school holidays, the school was open as normal and children, staff and parents were on site. There were a lot of structural alterations to the existing building and everyone understood we were working in a live environment.

“The extension and refurbishment will make a massive difference to the school and the community. It’s fantastic to see them settling in so well and we are so pleased they are delighted with the new building.”

Pupils said they love their extended and refurbished school and highlighted their favourite aspects as they settle into their new classrooms.

Year five pupil Matthew Mckinlay, nine, said: “The hall extension is the best bit of the whole school because it’s double the size, so we can all have assembly together. But we can close it off into two for separate lessons and it looks so much bigger with the new floor.”

Year five pupil Thomas Angus, nine, said: “The new classrooms are amazing. We have so much more space, which helps in lessons, and everything is new and modern.”