Olympic bronze medallist, Marilyn Okoro, was just one of the special guests that joined pupils and staff in celebrating Water Orton Primary School’s move to a brand new ‘state of the art’ building.
The Olympic relay runner took part in a tour of the new site followed by a special opening ceremony led by the Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Reverend David Urquhart.
The new school, which has been built with funding from HS2, has moved across the village green from its previous location in Attleboro Lane to Plank Lane, and is surrounded by approximately seven acres of green landscaped space, surrounded by fields, a pond and horses.
The new build includes ‘Evergreen’, a resource facility funded by Warwickshire County Council especially for children with Autistic Spectrum, communication and interaction difficulties who may not have been able to attend mainstream education previously.
The historic primary school originally opened 141 years ago. Water Orton Primary School now has over 300 pupils and, although eventually loved by generations of families, the Victorian school buildings had recently suffered numerous issues, including significant water damage from a leaking roof.
It received £3.5 million of HS2 funding towards the new school building and ‘Treehouse’, a private preschool and wrap around facility, as the original site was due to be affected by the high-speed train line.
The build was completed by Coleshill-based contractors, Wilmott Dixon, on schedule and in less than 12 months. Its open plan layout has the latest acoustic design and technology including solar powered roof vents, underfloor heating and a new ‘drive in, drop off’ car park.
In 2019, the opening ceremony included a tour of the new site and a special assembly, followed by a street party along the new school’s two main ‘streets’, which were festooned with bunting. A cake was made especially for the occasion by Warwickshire-based school caterers Educaterers, who have been given the contract to provide the new school’s meals.
Ian Budd, Assistant Director, Communities Directorate at Warwickshire County Council said: “Warwickshire County Council puts children at the heart of everything it does, and education sustainability is an important part of our focus.
“The funding from HS2 towards the construction of the new school has meant that pupils now have a ‘state of the art’ building with a facility especially for children with Autistic Spectrum, communication and interaction difficulties, plus a preschool providing wrap around care, and this is all great news for the community.
“I look forward to seeing the school go from strength to strength and the pupils flourishing in the new location.”
The history: From Victorian hot water and telephones to 21st century solar power and acoustic design
The modern building is in stark contrast to the Victorian school buildings which opened to pupils on 23rd March 1878.
Made of red brick with black coursings and a pitch-tiled roof, the building was erected by the Aston School Board. Reporting on its opening in 1878, The Coleshill Chronicle proclaimed that “the whole (building was) heated by hot water” and, including the cost of the site and fittings, cost £2,420 to construct.
These buildings replaced an even older village school building that had been on the site, and The Chronicle reported, “no doubt there were some in the village who would have preferred to go on in the old way, and in the old building” and that there would be “much prejudice against this new school.”
The Coleshill Chronicle further reported that, at the 1878 opening ceremony, Mr J A Cooper, Chairman of the School Board, “begged… co-operation of the inhabitants of the district, as having erected good schools and obtained an able mistress, and fixed the weekly fee at the lowest possible amount under the Act – namely, one penny per week – the Board sincerely hoped… the attendance of children would be very large.”
The Education Act was introduced in 1870 and the later 1880 Act meant education was compulsory for all children.
Entertainment at the grand opening of the Victorian school buildings included “a description and exhibition of the Telephone” and “a wire was laid to the neighbouring cottage… communication being kept up distinctly for some time, although the experiment was not so satisfactory as it might have been, owing to the noise in the schoolroom, which prevented the listeners hearing so clearly as they otherwise would have done.”