School’s bid for new additions

A ‘virtually full’ Ponteland school has put forward plans to provide extra teaching space.

There have only been minor alterations and upgrading of the two buildings at Darras Hall First School since they were first built in the 1960s as two separate schools – they were combined in 1972.

In order to secure best value for the school in the long-term, it has put together a major project to address some of the key issues.

The main scheme within the application is the enclosure of a disused internal courtyard.

As well as rooms for teaching, there would be an open-plan library space for the younger pupils and the old library room would be refurbished to provide two smaller rooms for quiet group working or those with special needs.

Another aspect is the installation of sheltered play areas for the playground to add to the facilities at the front and side of the school.

Headteacher Peter Tincombe said: “It has always been difficult to find additional learning space within the school grounds.

“We are virtually full at the moment – there are only three spare pupil spaces. The need for additional resources is even more pressing because over the last 24 months, we have been increasingly admitting children with a range of needs.

“We now have an opportunity to make good use of a courtyard that is not being used. This would involve covering it and then converting it into an IT and maths area and there would also be new rooms for one-to-one and group teaching, including for those children who need additional support.

“This proposal has the support of the school community. We’re fortunate to have a large group of parents who come in to run or help out with support activities, but they are currently having to use corridors and stairwells on occasions so they need something more appropriate for their needs.

“Our younger children have a kind of outdoor wendy house shelter and as part of the School Council meetings, our children have asked for a slightly more grown up version in the playground.

“It would be made up of wooden gazebo structures and pupils would use them on a rota basis.”

The application also includes extending the front of the lower school and providing an entirely new nursery space, as well as putting in place a new covered entrance.

Mr Tincombe said that this scheme is not on the near horizon as it is a longer term plan.