Chester Park Juniors show off long-awaited new building

August 04 2017

IT'S been years in the planning, but pupils at Chester Park Junior School have finally moved into their new building.

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IT'S been years in the planning, but pupils at Chester Park Junior School have finally moved into their new building.

And the verdict from staff, pupils and parents is that it's been worth the wait.

The light and airy modern school, in Abingdon Road, is in contrast to the Victorian building pupils moved from and boasts large classrooms, school field, bike shed and a huge multi-use games area.

A dedicated cookery room as well as a design, technology and art room means teaching these subjects is far more effective.

Each classroom is fitted with an interactive board while four group rooms, break out spaces and 'nurture room' allow staff to give targeted pupil support.

The hall boasts underfloor heating and can be partitioned to make two smaller spaces. Plans are in the pipeline to hire out the space, which includes a small kitchen, to community groups during evenings and weekends.

There are large windows everywhere, which, as well as making the school bright, also allow staff to constantly keep an eye on pupils to make sure they are safe.

A mezzanine floor with a glass panelled balcony adds to the sense of space and light.

Youngsters now have lots more outside space with use of a school field, although they will have to wait until the new grass is established before using it.

There will also be a quiet-zone playground where eventually there will be lots of shade, seating and an activity trail.

The library, which will showcase an installation by artist Kit Poulson, will be completed in time for the new school year in September and will be housed in the middle of the building, echoing the school's ethos on reading being central to learning.

Pupils moved in on June 12 and staff say they have settled in well, enjoying the modern facilities and their new-found extra space.

The school currently has a two-form entry with 275 pupils. The school will become a three-form entry from September, with pupil numbers rising year on year until reaching a capacity of 360 in seven years' time.

The school has been built by construction company Skanska on the site of Mayfield Park, a move which initially prompted objections from people living nearby over the loss of the open space.

Headteacher Mike McNama has been leading the school after taking over from Tony Phillips who retired in September 2016 after 31 years.

"We first started talking about a new school in February 2008 so it's been a long wait but now we're here, it's amazing!

"Once the builders got going on it, they finished the project in about 50 weeks. 

"The children absolutely love it and think it's fantastic. The school has a really calm atmosphere so the transition from one school to another has been really smooth.

"They also have much more play space which is great and our parents are currently raising money for an activity trail.

"The classrooms are a good size and have great acoustics. During the summer holiday we will have an art installation put in with the library. The library will be really important as reading is the driving force behind everything we do.

"In terms of making the children ready for learning, we have found the new building really works well. It's a very well-thought out building in terms of giving pupils the education that they need.

"It hasn't necessarily been easy for the parents who now have children on two different sites but they have been really supportive of the move. They've been great."

Something Mr McNama is particularly proud of is the school's 'nurture room', a small but colourful and homely space where pupils who need it can seek comfort.

"We have a nurturing approach to supporting children's learning so wanted a nurture room which can be used by children who may find learning in a classroom all the time quite challenging. It can also be used by children who have emotional difficulties or children have experienced bereavement or those who are feeling particularly sad. It's a quiet and reflective space where children can get themselves ready for learning again. We had a vision for this and it's proving to work well."

Mr McNama said pupils can look forward to a great education at Chester Park.

"Victorian buildings are very beautiful but they aren't necessarily fit for teaching in the 21st century so the move has really been a valuable uplift to us."

Pupils from Chester Park Infant School will now take over the entire Ridgeway Road site, which is currently being refurbished in order to expand to a three-form entry.

The junior school operates a staffed 'walking bus' to the infants, which means parents who have children in both schools, but aren't able to do both drop offs, can be assured their younger children will get to school safely.

Deputy headteacher Claire Bailey, who joined last September from a school in Newcastle, said: "Settling in has been fantastic. It's a very welcoming school and has a real sense of community and family."