Newly built village school now needs extension, head says

By Aaron Kendall   |   Assistant Editor   |
Tuesday 19th September 2017 11:55 am
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A village primary school is looking to expand again despite moving into brand new buildings less than two years ago.

Sparkwell All saints Primary School moved into new, purpose built facilities in January 2016. The small village school, which used to be housed in the old school building in the centre of the village, closed in 2009, reopening a few years later in 2013.

But the old building was no longer fit for purpose, and a brand new school with room for 105 pupils was built behind the parish hall. The school still has a lease on the old building, but actually using it presents many challenges.

The new school was opened with much fanfare, but now leaders say this too is lacking in one respect - a space big enough for assemblies, lunch and other large group activities.

Head Francesca McLoughlin went along to Sparkwell Parish Council’s latest meeting to explain what the proposals, which have now been submitted to planning authority South Hams District Council, would involve.

She said teachers still used the old building a lot, but not every day, because there were a few issues that made it difficult. It was hard to walk classes down to it, and once there the building was not up to modern accessibility standards. In short, use of the building by teachers could not be ad hoc, but had to be planned.

The old building is used as an arts studio and for gymnastics classes, where each class goes once a week. It is also used by other groups, the head explained, which meant the school could cover the cost of upkeep of the Victorian building.

Because the new school had been built without a large space, the only solution was more building in the form of an extension. If planning permission was granted work would start next Easter, with the new rooms ready to use for next school year, Mrs McLoughlin said.

The school could hang on for a year, she added, if it knew the new building was on the way.

The proposed extension will be tucked away behind the existing building, and house a classroom, toilet and storage facilities. One of the existing junior classrooms will become the school hall.

Responding to questions from councillors, Mrs McLoughlin said that while it was in their care, the school was happy to take care of the old building and use it. But long term, it was going to become a drain on resources as they were in effect running two schools, one of which was empty most of the time.

She said on the occasions when the school had tried to open the old building to the public for events not many people had come, it had no parking and would have to compete with the parish hall if it was to be used as more of a community space.

Parish council vice chairman Julian Taylor noted the school had a long lease on the old building, and it had to be used for education purposes. But councillors agreed some alternative use had to be found for it as they voted ’no objection’ on the proposed extension.

The final decision on the plans will be made by SHDC.

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