Children move into new £11m school building

CHILDREN at Elm Park Primary School in Winterbourne have moved into their new £11 million eco-building – more than two years later than originally planned.

Staff and pupils had originally been told they would be in their new building in September 2021 – but finally moved in at the start of the current term, on January 5.

Head teacher Carol Bond said they were all “extremely excited” at the new state-of-the-art school, and pupils have welcomed it as a bright and happy space.

The building in Nicholls Lane is constructed to ‘Passivhaus’ environmental standards, to be highly energy efficient, insulated and ventilated, and have a very low carbon impact, with solar panels and heating from air source heat pumps. 

Mrs Bond said: “Since our old school opened in 1961, our building has seen thousands of children pass through our school gates. 

“It was sad to say goodbye to our old building, which was full of so many memories, but we have been truly excited to welcoming our children into our new building.

“We really look forward to welcoming many more generations through our new school gates and making new memories. 

“From our school community, I would like to extend our very grateful thanks to BAM (building contractor) and the team at South Gloucestershire Council for their incredible dedication to this project.”

Mrs Bond said the school’s 210 pupils were enjoying the new building and comments had included one youngster saying: “I was sad that we had to say goodbye to our old school but I love the new one.  The library is my favourite place.”

Another described the new building as “really bright and happy”, adding: “My favourite place is the upstairs bit because it has lots of space.”

The school hall, a new multi-use outdoor sports pitch and the playing field are set to be made available for community use.

The new school (in the background, behind the digger) opened to staff and pupils in January, with work underway to demolish the old buildings (in the foreground).

The new school has been built on the old staff car park – the old school is already in the process of being demolished, after which landscaping and external works will be carried out.

Five-year project

The opening comes nearly five years since after decision to replace the school building was announced.

It was in March 2019 that South Gloucestershire Council confirmed it had allocated £4.9m in its budget to replace what Winterbourne ward councillor Trevor Jones had described as a “tired old building”.

However two years later, with building yet to start, the council said it had superseded the original plans with a scheme for a building built to energy efficient ‘Passivhaus’ standards, with solar panels, high levels of insulation and low energy consumption, adding £1.2m to the cost.

The delay angered the area’s MP Jack Lopresti, who spoke out in August 2021 when the council said the changes, and delays related to the covid pandemic, meant the school would not be ready before September 2023.

He described it as “a terrible failure by the council to deliver this project”.

During the summer of last year the council said that due to further delays, the school would not be ready until January, when staff and pupils finally moved in.

The delays, and high inflation in the construction industry over the past few years, have pushed the price of the project over the £11m mark.

A spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council said: “The replacement building has been designed to Passivhaus standards to minimise environmental impact, dramatically reducing reliance on fossil fuels, minimising energy consumption, while also generating its own electricity via solar panels.

“The new layout of the school site incorporates educational facilities for the benefit of the pupils and staff, and spaces for community use including access to the hall, a multi-use outdoor sports pitch and the playing field.”