Updated: Chulmleigh Academy opens new classrooms

Pupils Martha Newman, Daniel Gergel, Charles Suliavskas and Robert Warren open the new extension at

Pupils Martha Newman, Daniel Gergel, Charles Suliavskas and Robert Warren open the new extension at Chulmleigh County Primary School with Education Funding Agency chief executive Peter Lauener. - Credit: Archant

New developments at community college and primary school unveiled today.

Chulmleigh head boy Silas Welsh and head girl Alex Ward open the new classrooms with Education Fundi

Chulmleigh head boy Silas Welsh and head girl Alex Ward open the new classrooms with Education Funding Agency chief executive Peter Lauener. - Credit: Archant

PUPILS in Chulmleigh will return to school tomorrow (Thursday) to brand new classrooms.

Chulmleigh head boy Silas Welsh and head girl Alex Ward open the new classrooms with Education Fundi

Chulmleigh head boy Silas Welsh and head girl Alex Ward open the new classrooms with Education Funding Agency chief executive Peter Lauener. - Credit: Archant

An official opening of new developments at the community college and primary school earlier today was described as ‘a dream come true’ by school principal Michael Johnson.

Chulmleigh Community College principal Michael Johnson.

Chulmleigh Community College principal Michael Johnson. - Credit: Archant

He said the impossible had been made possible following a decade long-campaign for better classrooms at the 600-pupil community college.

Guests await the opening of the new classrooms at Chulmleigh Community College.

Guests await the opening of the new classrooms at Chulmleigh Community College. - Credit: Archant

Dilapidated pre-war wooden huts, described as ‘rat-infested rotting hulks’, were ripped out in 2008 and replaced with temporary mobile classrooms while the school pursued government funding.

Chulmleigh head boy Silas Welsh and head girl Alex Ward open the new classrooms with Education Fundi

Chulmleigh head boy Silas Welsh and head girl Alex Ward open the new classrooms with Education Funding Agency chief executive Peter Lauener. - Credit: Archant


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But the plan for permanent buildings was kicked into touch in 2010 by Education Secretary Michael Gove with the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Chulmleigh head boy Silas Welsh and head girl Alex Ward open the new classrooms with Education Fundi

Chulmleigh head boy Silas Welsh and head girl Alex Ward open the new classrooms with Education Funding Agency chief executive Peter Lauener. - Credit: Archant

Government funding finally arrived in July last year in the form of a £2.5million grant from the Education Funding Agency (EFA).

Chulmleigh Community College principal Michael Johnson (right) and Education Funding Agency chief ex

Chulmleigh Community College principal Michael Johnson (right) and Education Funding Agency chief executive Peter Lauener. - Credit: Archant

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The money has been used to complete the first phase of redevelopment – a £1.8m two storey classroom block at the community college, as well as a £427,000 extension at the adjacent primary school.

Pupils from the Rock Choir perform before the opening of the new classrooms at Chulmleigh Community

Pupils from the Rock Choir perform before the opening of the new classrooms at Chulmleigh Community College. - Credit: Archant

A second phase to build a second wing of 13 new classrooms at the community college is already under way and expected to be complete by April 2014.

The phase one buildings were unveiled by EFA chief executive Peter Lauener this morning.

Speaking at the opening, Mr Johnson, said the former classrooms were of ‘below average standard’.

“The windows were falling in and we had problems with vermin and asbestos,” he said.

“They were too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter – completely inadequate for learning.

“Today is a dream come true. People told us it couldn’t be done with the amount of money we had. We think we’ve now become an exemplar of what can be achieved with public money.

“The students are excited about coming in tomorrow, as are the staff, who are over the moon.”

Mr Johnson said the project had received huge support from the local community. “We were told it was impossible and it has not been easy,” he said.

“Things changed every day but we went through two big phases of planning permission and there was not a single objection from anywhere.”

Steve Baber, chairman of the Chulmleigh Academy Trust, which comprises four primary schools as well as the community college, said: “We are absolutely thrilled – it’s a brilliant day for Chulmleigh.

“Today is just part of the journey but it is a celebration.”

He said the school already had outstanding teachers and pupils and had now been able to invest in resources for learning.

“This is the beginnings of the full package at Chulmleigh,” he said.

“Our vision is to put Chulmleigh at the centre of England in an Educational sense and we will keep driving forward over the next three or four years to do so.

“Phase two is in place and is happening as of now and we hope it will be ready by April 2014.”

Mr Baber said there was a ‘wish list’ for further development and that the trust was already looking at phase three.

“We have a vision for larger development across the five schools in the academy trust,” he said

Head girl Alex Ward, 15, said she was looking forward to returning to school, as were her friends.

“It’s a much brighter school to learn in,” she said. “I like the labs – they’re really big.”

Head boy Silas Welsh added: “I’ve never seen a building go up so fast.

“The old classrooms were a bit grimy but the new ones are a lot more roomy and not as cold.”

Cutting the ribbon at the primary school, Mr Lauener said: “It’s terrific to be able to come and see what a great job has been done here – it really is good value for money.

“The scheme was to allow popular and successful schools to expand if they need it.

“Teaching is already outstanding here but this will now be a better school to learn in.”

Linda Lindley, executive deputy head teacher said: “We have been working for quite a long time to put together a plan and a vision for the school culminating in the bid to the EFA.

“We have struggled for many years; we’ve had classrooms in the corridors and the school nurse in the stock cupboard.

“We are now delighted to have the space for children to spread and to enjoy their learning.”

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