Wednesday, 17 August 2022

School 'on the up' wants to expand with new classroom

A VILLAGE school could expand in order to admit more pupils.

The governing body of Lewknor Primary School has submitted a planning application for a new classroom with a maximum capacity of 20 children.

The development would involve demolishing a timber-clad building and a concrete shed.

Headteacher Deborah Cole said the new classroom would be “extremely costly” but the school had a committed team with a supportive parents’ fund-raising group.

She said: “Lewknor Primary School is on the up. There has been growing interest in our school following much improvement over recent years.

“Our problem is that we may not be able to sustain such success without an additional classroom.

“Oxfordshire County Council says that we should be able to take 15 children in the reception class but we currently only have room for 10.

“Luckily, this year we had an intake of nine children but another child is due to start in January. However, classroom conditions for the nine are far from ideal as the children are being taught for some of the time in an old wooden building that has seen better days.”

This building was previously used as a library/music room/storage room but Mrs Cole said it was effectively a “glorified shed”.

She continued: “The school needs a new, bigger classroom that will create an environment where our reception children can learn more effectively.

“The shed should be dismantled. It is nearing the end of its life and the governors feel that rather than wasting a lot of money on repairs to keep it running for a year or two more the cash would be better spent on a new classroom.”

Another small room currently used by the children could then be put to better use, such as a library, or a music or computer room.

Mrs Cole said: “The educational landscape is constantly changing and with more and more schools going down the academy or multi-academy trust route, it is essential that our little school is in a strong position.

“We must continue to appeal not just to future generations of parents who want to send their children to our charming village school but also to other good and outstanding schools which are hoping to combine in a strong partnership.”

The original two-storey school building is flanked by single-storey classrooms with thatched gables. Attached to the back of one of the classrooms is a single-storey brick toilet block.

These buildings date back to 1836 and are Grade II listed.

Since 1999, the school has built two more classrooms, while over the years a number of outbuildings has sprung up, largely for storage. One of these still remains. In the application to South Oxfordshire District Council, the school’s architects Aldington Craig and Collinge, of Thame, says: “The school needs four decent-sized classrooms and extra space for arts, crafts and a special needs break-out room, similar to a small resources room.

“The school also needs outdoor teaching spaces directly off the classrooms.

“Therefore, to maintain the existing arrangement of buildings, our proposal is to simply replace the existing single-storey, flat-roof timber classroom with a larger, single-storey building more suitable for teaching a class of 10 to 20 pupils.

“The school is progressing but due to the piecemeal approach of previous developments, it now finds itself being penalised by its own success.

“Our proposal is to unlock the potential of this school by providing it with a unified solution.”

The district council is due to make a decision by January 24.

Earlier this year, the school retained its “good” rating from the education watchdog Ofsted.

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