A new outdoor specialist teaching area has been opened at Acorns Primary School in Preston, a school for children with special needs, thanks to the generosity of local companies.
In November 2019, the deputy head teacher, Katy Stringer, was invited to speak at Preston based Pete Marquis Contractor's charity ball, which is held every year, with the aim being that Acorns would be the beneficiaries of anything that was raised that evening.
In total, the ball's attendees successfully raised £53,500 for the school's proposed outdoor learning space, whilst on the night, two other businesses, Glenn Henry, a ground worker from Preston, and Wes Davies, from Mulipave in Leyland, also offered to do some of the work for free.
Katy, who has worked at the school since 2015, said: "Without the help of Pete and everyone that donated, we would never have been able to give those children the learning opportunities that they now have. I was quite petrified on the night, but it was such an honour to go and talk and to now see what their money has been able to provide our children is just amazing, so we are truly thankful."
The outdoor area in question had been unused for years, and had become waterlogged and overgrown, but thanks to the help of local businesses, it has been transformed into a wheelchair accessible outdoor learning space, offering a chance for the curriculum to expand in new ways.
Katy explained: "After the ball, COVID got in the way, but in between each of the lockdowns, Glenn was able to clear all the the ground work and put some drainage in, and then Wes came along and did a pre tarmac layer, because we needed to have a soft surface poured onto it, and then we had a specialist company design an area specially for our pupils that have complex medical needs, and profound, multiple learning difficulties, to access.
"Before, it wasn't even accessible to able-bodied children because it was an old ruined pathway, and wheelchairs sunk on the grass, but now it's a soft pore surface and we've opened it up, so children can be out there in the wheelchairs, or we can hoist them out and they can access the floor. We've also got a round-a-bout that they can go on in wheelchairs, which is amazing because not many parks have those facilities that are adapted for our children.
"We've also designed a specific curriculum for our children with profound and multiple learning difficulties, so that will enable them to go out there and continue their learning in the outdoor space, and we know that, being out for our children, we're limited as to where we can take them because we can only take so many wheelchairs on our school bus at once, but this way, the whole class can go out at the same time, and can access different aspects of the learning outdoors."
As well as the impressive outdoor space, new bifold doors have been installed at the side of the classroom providing easy access to the area, whilst these doors being opened means children can be both outside and inside the classroom and still benefit from the area.
Although the children have been using the outdoor space since it was finished in July, the bifold doors were only fitted over the October half term, so now that the whole construction is complete, an official opening event is taking place on Thursday 2nd December at 2pm.
Katy said: "We are finally finished in that area two years later than anticipated because of COVID, so we thought it was only right that we recognise the official opening of the area, so we've invited Pete, Glenn and Wes along to open it, as well as our chair of governors, and the parents of the children that will access that area, just to celebrate it really.
"It's the first time in a while that we've had quite a significant piece of work done on the school, that we haven't paid for, so it will bring everyone together, and means Pete can see where the money's gone so he can feedback to the businesses that he links with all the time, and say, look, it has made a real difference to that school, because it really was very much appreciated."