BENTLEY Primary School has launched an ambitious 18-month campaign to raise the £200,000 needed to support urgent renovation and refurbishment work to the building.
Aptly called The Big School Build, the catalyst for the project has been the awarding of a £310,000 grant associated with the development for housing of the former Treloar School site at neighbouring Upper Froyle, which will increase the pressure on Bentley Primary School to take more pupils.
As a result, the school has set up a building committee to look at how best to use the money.
Built in 1842 to accommodate around 50 pupils, Bentley Primary School has been modernised and expanded over the years to update the facilities and take in children from Froyle. An Ofsted inspection 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 is bursting at the seams.
According to staff and parents, the building has inadequate toilet facilities, needs a new drainage system, a kitchen extension, and a new classroom.
But it is estimated that the work will cost far more than £300,000 and, with this in mind, the decision has been taken to address all the problems in one hit and to go for a comprehensive £500,000 project.
This will include the building of a new toilet block for pupils and staff and the creation of a 21st Century reception classroom for children aged four and five, with an outdoor space, on an unused area of the playground.
The old classroom space will be used to improve learning for children with special needs and to provide a homely, comfortable room offering “wraparound” childcare from 7.45am to 6pm.
It will also allow the existing kitchen to be extended. At present the kitchen staff are providing 180 hot lunches daily in an area too small for the job.
In addition, there is an urgent need for a radical overhaul of the existing drainage system in order to alleviate flooding in the playground and unpleasant odours emanating from within the building.
The proposal is also to redesign the central atrium to open up the corridor space between the school office and the classroom. The lean-to-roof will be replaced and a dedicated first-aid area and caretaker’s room will be created.
It is a challenging but exciting project for newly-appointed headteacher Katy Pinchess, who said: “Throughout the years there have been a number of incremental changes to the school buildings. However, these changes have not been enough and today there are rooms and facilities that are no longer fit for purpose.
“With expansion (in pupil numbers) over many years, no changes have been made to the basic infrastructure of the school, which is why several areas need to be addressed.”
Mrs Pinchess continued: “While the school is considered a great place for children to learn and develop, we do need to ensure there are enough toilets for children and staff, including a disabled toilet, to avoid congestion and continue to maintain good hygiene standards.”
According to Mrs Pinchess, drainage is considered a key issue, in particular the restrictions that are put in place when large puddles form at one end of the playground.
And, just as importantly, a new classroom and outdoor space is needed for the school’s Reception class, which is presently “too noisy, cramped and does not enable the 50 per cent target of outside play (to be met)”.
“Moving this class to a new space will also allow improvements to learning facilities for children with special needs and provide wraparound childcare,” she said.
As such the school has mobilised a dedicated team of people tasked with “making it happen”, hopefully with work starting during the summer holiday break in 2017 and taking just six to seven months to complete.
The first step has been to launch The Big School Build fundraising campaign, an initiative lead by parent Amanda Sinclair, who said: “There are a number of great fundraising activities already happening and the response so far has been fantastic. In particular, at the launch of the campaign (on November 26) when so many people from the local community offered their time and energy.”
Fundraising projects already include a chance to win a new Mini Cooper, a Brighton to Bentley charity bicycle ride and a music festival planned for 2017.
“Everyone involved is very focused on making this a huge success,” said Mrs Sinclair.
“It has taken many people a considerable amount of time already to propose, plan and launch this project. There’s lots of hard work ahead and we hope that many more people and businesses will join in.”