A BARRY headteacher has awarded top marks to the community that helped pave the way for a new school build following previous closure threats.
Oak Field primary headteacher, Ian Williams paid tribute to the pupils, parents, staff, and wider Gibbonsdown community following the lodging of an application, with Vale planners, for a new two-storey primary school building with playground, lighting, sprinkler tank and landscaping on the current school site.
The English-language Oak Field primary school was last year – along with Llanfair and Llancarfan primaries – threatened with closure, but a parent-led campaign successfully secured the school’s future.
Ysgol Gwaun y Nant, the adjacent Welsh medium school, will expand into the current Oak Field facility, with Oak Field occupying a different site position.
Mr Williams said it was “really exciting” the planning application had now been lodged.
He said: “When you think back a couple of years the prospects and outlook for Oak Field were very bleak.
“All credit to the Gibbonsdown community that fought for their school successfully and overturned the decision and the incredibly hard work of Mrs Bowen Jones, the governing body and staff to start to turn the school around and drive it forward and out of Special Measures.
“I can clearly remember the second week in post and being called into a meeting with a number of key people from the LEA and council and not being told what the agenda was. I can remember thinking the very worst - instead being told of the plans to build a brand new Oak Field. I can remember being absolutely gobsmacked - it took a long while to sink in.”
He said it hadn’t been until he and the governing body chairwoman, Gill Munroe attended the mid-tender review meeting in May that it felt real.
Ian said: “I feel the school has really moved in this last year. There is a real positive buzz and vibe in the place as commented on by numerous visitors and at the school gate from the parents. We have done a tremendous amount this year to engage the whole school community running a number of courses for parents that have been well attended as well as open days and Oak Field’s first community trip to Folly Farm and Oakwood with over 200 places taken up.”
He said the school had gained a significant amount of funding from department store John Lewis to support the development of nurture and recently The Principality who redecorated and furnished the staff and community rooms.
The PTA has grown and is running a number of successful fundraisers with the knock-on effect in the community impacting significantly on numbers – nursery numbers going from eight at the start of last year to 42 by the end of the year with a number of families returning to Oak Field.
Ian added: “The new school will significantly enhance and boost the good work that we are currently doing. I want Oak Field to be at the very heart of its community, to be a community school that works to engage, support, educate, the whole family - an environment that is purposeful, functional, vibrant as well as a calm and fun place to be for everyone.
“The new school will give us all of this and much more. The children will have a significant input at all stages of the new school build, as will staff, governors and parents. The children are incredibly excited about a state-of- the-art-new school and thoroughly deserve it as do the staff and community as a whole.
“The new learning environments will do much to enhance learning opportunities for all and to build on the continued improvement in standards already evident.
“When you think of the journey of Oak Field and the twists and the turns in its past - the difficult and hard times - it really does feel that it is coming out from this at a pace, onward and upward to a very bright, exciting and successful future and one in which I feel very proud and honoured to be a part of. This is an extremely exciting new chapter in the life of Oak Field and one which is fully deserved.”