IT was all hands on deck over the summer at Bentley Primary School as its £500,000 Big Build project came to fruition.
Volunteers from developer Linden Homes, school staff and the community joined forces to help organise the new facilities in time for the start of the new school year.
Built in 1842, to accommodate around 50 pupils, Bentley Primary School has been modernised and expanded over the years to update the facilities and include children from neighbouring Froyle.
An Ofsted Report in 2007 declared it “an outstanding school” and one which has continued to grow in stature and popularity. It now has 213 pupils and 28 staff, and it was, until now, bursting at the seams.
Keen to make a difference, a group of parents lobbied Hampshire County Council (HCC) and a spec was drawn up to meet the school’s needs.
The catalyst for the project was the awarding of a £310,000 Section 106 grant associated with the development of housing on the former Treloar School site at neighbouring Upper Froyle, which looked likely to increase the pressure on Bentley School to take yet more pupils.
HCC Children’s Services came on board with additional funding, leaving the school to raise £50,000, a target The Big School Build committee hit in just 18 months, thanks to an energetic and imaginative programme of sales, raffles, events and sponsored challenges such as the Big Bike Ride.
Started in September 2016, by HCC commissioned building contractors Spelthams, under the direction of project leader Alice Duffield, the Big Build project has provided a new reception classroom for children aged 4-5, new drainage, two blocks of new toilets for each of the classes from years 2-4, an extension to the existing kitchen, and refurbishment of the old year R classroom to provide a homely, comfortable room to improve learning provision for children with special needs and wrap-around childcare provision from 7.45am-6pm.
Thanking The Big School Build Committee for kick-starting the project and for “leaving a lasting legacy,” headteacher Katy Pinchess said that as well as improving reception year provision, every effort had been made to upgrade facilities for the whole of the school: “Every penny has been used wisely so that every child will benefit from the project,” she added.
She also paid tribute to all those who helped make the four-year project such a success, not least all those volunteers who helped over the summer holiday to redecorate and make the school habitable for the start of the autumn term – amongst them members of the Linden Homes site team working on the Archers Green development in nearby Hole Lane.
Ms Pinchess said : ”This whole project has been supported by the community and we are delighted to have had Linden Homes volunteers on board to help with our removals to ‘magically’ get furniture, cupboards and resources to all the right places.
“We hope the children and their families are impressed by our fabulous new building.”
Jo Dixon, marketing manager of Linden Homes South, said: “With a number of children potentially moving into Archers Green who may attend Bentley School we were more than happy to help provide some muscle power and get involved with organising the new facilities ready for the new school year.
“The school has done a fantastic job raising the funds for the work to create an environment that will benefit all of the children and it’s wonderful to be able to play a part in that.”