Bampton in Devon

Bampton in Devon

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Bampton Primary School - The head-teacher's diary of progress

Not many head teachers get the opportunity to watch their own brand new school being built! Here Mrs James records the unfolding events...


Week of 18 December 2006

Men in florescent jackets and hard hats have appeared on site this week for the first time. Some measuring seems to be going on with striped poles but little else. A solitary wheelbarrow has been left – is it symbolic?

3 January 2007
Staff returned to school today after the Christmas break – was quite excited on the approach to school to see what had happened over the holiday. Security fencing has been placed along the drive and the front playground has been well and truly cordoned off.

The first part of the non-pupil day is spent with colleagues re-arranging the timetable and planning how we will manage break times with reduced play space. We are reminded that there will be a new intake of children so it is even more important that everyone has adequate play space. In the end we decide to incorporate the school hall into the play-space – we will stock it with lego, board games and craft supplies for those children who want a quieter break time. Lunch times will be staggered slightly to split the children into two populations.

4 January 2007
The children returned to school today. I am now on duty in the mornings at the foot of the drive by the school gate as the children who travel to school by County transport will be dropped off here. We have asked families to park away from School Close in the mornings and afternoons, to avoid congestion etc. I am pleased to see that most parents have remembered that the car park is no longer open to us and that everyone is walking up School Close in groups. I must say, it seems far more civilised to see the children walking up to school with their friends and chatting on the way. Today it is not raining – it won’t be such fun in bad weather!

Some of the teachers have parked in the town car-park and been ferried to school by colleagues; the rest of us have parked on the grass. I can see the grass turning into a quagmire fairly quickly so consult with Merv, the caretaker for a ‘plan B’. We need to keep the drive and top area clear for deliveries so we decide to look into the cost of laying down some hardcore.

6 January 2007
The hardcore is delivered but the endless rain has prevented the lorry from tipping it directly onto the grass. It has been dumped into the car park pro. Tem.
8 January 2007
It is still raining. Merv has been able to arrange for a digger to come and spread the hardcore however it is too wet to park on it yet and needs some time to settle down. The ferry service continues from the town and a couple of us have been able to use the car park as there is no real building activity yet. It’s a pity that teachers have to carry so many books and boxes around – the paperless society has not reached us yet!

15 January 2007
The contractors (CS Williams) arrived for real today. The wire fencing was removed from the playground and men with theodolites and wooden stakes were very active.

16 January 2007
Pretty quite today but the old garage is being transformed into the builder’s operations centre and some railway sleepers have been laid alongside as a base for an office. A couple of trees removed.

18 January 2007
Had to leave school promptly at 4.30pm today as a big lorry with crane was waiting to come up the drive to deliver the temporary building for the contractors use. More fencing down and concrete posts being uprooted in the play ground.

22 January 2007

Passed a huge digger on my way to school this morning, guessed it was coming to us. Had had vague ideas about a turf cutting ceremony but within hours huge swathes had been cut up to the playground and on through the bank to the top field. Many more stakes on the field in place. We have been busy taking photos, all with the date on, and plan to keep a visual diary. We will have to keep on the ball as things are happening very quickly at the moment.

9 March 2007

Work continues uninterrupted despite the heavy, and almost continuous, rain we have experienced this last month. We have attended our first formal site meeting and it was reported that despite some delays as a result of the weather, work is progressing at the agreed rate.

The heavy rain has led to far more mud on School Close and West Street than was anticipated. The contractors have responded speedily to complaints and increased the frequency of road sweeping. Excessive rain water run-off has also now been dealt with by the clearance of the drains in the car park.

Work is currently being done on the drains, retaining walls and road/pathways for the site. Foundations to the building are underway and it is possible to actually see the shape or ‘footprint’ of the building.

I am looking forward to being able to walk across the site but at the moment it is far too muddy and there is too much activity going on with the heavy plant.

The fundraising activities continue apace with individuals, Governors and the PTFA all directing their energies towards the new school. Tiverton High School has offered to mobilise former Bampton pupils and organise a fashion show (with a difference!) in the summer term and other Church Schools in Devon have given support.

Next week the contractors will be visiting the pupils in assembly to talk to them about the progress of the work and site safety. With the longer Easter holiday approaching, and the better weather/ lighter evenings, it is possible that some children would be tempted to find ways into the site to explore. Hopefully, by keeping the children well informed we can reduce the likelihood of this happening.

22 May 2007

Little to report of late as one bit of foundation looks much like any to the unpractised eye however, at last we have something recognisable to look at with the framework of the hall and classroom wings having been erected over the past two weeks. The interior block walls are slowly appearing and it is now possible to determine some of the interior spaces. I think I can see my office.

At times the rooms look small but them something else is done and it seems to affect the overall scale. It is generally fairly difficult to judge the size of the rooms as it is not possible for us to go walking across the site. The huge crane that was used to lift the steel girders and the timbers made the site far too dangerous.

So far we have only been able to make one official visit onto the site, accompanied by the architect and project overseer. The amount of earth moving still to be undertaken is truly impressive. At the far end of the field, where the football pitch will be, the ground is very high and a splendid view of the town can be had. Standing in the hall space we will get exactly the view we envisaged, at the design stage, of the hill with the quarry and the church.

Several retaining walls have been built into the landscaping to allow for the terracing of the different levels. The block that has been chosen for this matches, as closely as possible, the red of the earth on the quarry opposite.

I do most of my viewing from the ‘orange corridor’ that leads up to the old craft block. It really offers a grandstand view but I think some of the builders must wonder who it is who comes to peer at them several times a day!

9 October 2007

Over the summer holidays building work progressed at a slower rate than expected as a result of the rain. The flooding in other parts of the country, particularly Oxfordshire and Tewkesbury had a direct impact on us as this was where steelworks were being constructed and paint finishes were being applied for the windows and roof. By the end of the holidays the project was a disappointing 6 weeks behind schedule.

Thankfully, since September the building has almost got back on track, the windows have been delivered and installed and the roof coverings are on all elements of the building. Much of the internal scaffolding has been removed and the internal trades are busy installing wiring and plumbing.

Work has also continued outside with the pedestrian footpath, steps for those people who wish to take a short cut, and the levelling of the land at the back for sports pitches and playgrounds. We hope that this work can continue uninterrupted by poor weather as it is important to try to get the grass seeded on time for the growing season; it would be disappointing to have to face a whole year without any grass!

During the holidays we went for meetings at the architects’ office in Exeter and chose colour schemes for the carpets, cupboards, work surfaces, tiles and lavatory cubicles. The wonders of CAD have enabled us to see what our colour combinations will look like as 3D images.

The existing school site has now been put on the property market for auction and considerable interest has been shown from a number of quarters. The auction will take place on 26 October at the Parish Church Rooms, Barnstaple. The auctioneers are Phillips Smith and Dunn. We are hopeful that the site will realise a good price.

18 December 2007

This time last year, the builders arrived on site for the first time, to do some preliminary surveying and prepare the site security. Now the building is a fair way to being completed and we are having great fun choosing paint colours, carpets, new furnishings, blinds and so the list goes on.

Access to the site is still fairly limited as we don’t want to hold the builders up and there are a considerable number of potential hazards to avoid. The internal walls are all plastered and are drying out well. Last week the sedum roof was delivered and planted ‘in situ’ so by the late spring we should start to see our green roof.

Plans are going ahead for the installation of the woodchip boiler which will supply the heat for the under floor heating system. We will be able to buy fuel locally and minimise our carbon-footprint! Training on the management of the boiler will take place in February.

The swimming pool project is now to be included in the ‘build’ programme and the PTFA have been busy raising funds towards the 10% contribution for this element of the costs.

Perhaps the biggest change has been in the landscaping behind the school. I am confident that the children will find the new play areas exciting and challenging.

The staff are all busy thinking about how we will work in the new building and how we will organise ourselves. We are keen to be innovative and not just replicate what we do in a new space.

Of course there are lots of things to be sorted out in the old building, not least the shredding of old paperwork and recycling and removal of old furniture etc. The Devon Schools’ Library Service has been very helpful in ‘weeding’ out old book stock and identifying any gaps in our provision.

I am sure the time after Christmas will just fly by – at the moment we are still aiming to be in the new building by the end of March – fingers crossed that the weather doesn’t do anything silly to spoil things.

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