Council chiefs inspect expansion work at lower school

Education
Education

The ongoing expansion of Russell Lower School in Ampthill has been inspected by council leaders during a tour.

The lower school, in Queen’s Road, is in the final stage of a three-phase expansion being constructed by Modplan, which will allow it to increase its intake from 300 to 450 pupils from September, and progress was viewed by members from Central Bedfordshire Council

Work is currently taking place to build seven new classrooms. A classroom in the old build has been extended and converted into a dining hall, currently being used as a hall space as well until the completion of the new hall.

A new block of offices and a reception area built at the front of the school and a second ICT suite have been created for younger pupils adjacent to the new foundation stage classrooms.

Last Thursday, Executive Member for Children’s Services Cllr Mark Versallion, Council Chairman Cllr Caroline Maudlin and Central Bedfordshire councillor Mike Blair, in his role as Mayor of Ampthill, joined officers from the council and headteacher Jane Sealey for a tour of the school.

The £3.2million scheme to expand Russell Lower is needed due to the popularity of the school and house building in the area putting extra demand on places there.

It is part of the council’s commitment to providing 6,500 new school places across Central Bedfordshire in the next five years.

Mrs Sealey said that she has been really pleased with how things have progressed so far.

She said: “It has superseded my expectations from a building and an architectural point of view. No build is ever going to be easy, especially a £3.2million build in three phases over an enormous site.

“However, we have had plenty of support from Central Bedfordshire Council – they have met all of our requests – while the architect (David Turnock) has been brilliant.

“Everything is going very well, the new buildings are user friendly and accessible and when it is all completed it will be a beautiful learning space.

“We are also making sure that the existing classrooms will not be neglected, and they will be painted and have new flooring too.”

Mrs Sealey added that the work has been carried out in such a way that it has caused the minimum disruption to pupils.

She said: “All of what I would call the messy work, so demolition, moving the stairs, doing the lighting and fire alarms was carried out during the summer.

“The expansion of the dining hall was completed before we lost the old hall and we can have the children in there for assembly, PE and at lunch time. The dining space is used by the before and after-school club and on build completion will be used for community use, including Brownies, taekwondo and band practice. The work has been done in such a way that the rest of the school can be shut off when it is in use.

“I have been at the school for 18 years and have seen it grow a lot during that time, and I am looking forward to seeing what it looks like when the work is completed in July.”

Cllr Versallion added: “It is always a privilege to be able to visit a school, especially one as inclusive as Russell Lower where I saw parents and grandparents helping out as part of the normal school day and children being challenged by some exciting and innovative teaching.

“The new facilities look fantastic and I am delighted that they will be able to benefit community groups too.

“Central Bedfordshire Council is doing excellent work to provide thousands of new places, which is vital so children can attend a good school on their doorstep like Russell Lower.”

For more information about the council’s new school places programme, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/school-places