Bitterley Primary is a thriving rural school that makes up an important part of its local community. Situated in the centre of Bitterley Village in South Shropshire approximately 120 children attend our School. The school’s aim is to create a happy and secure environment where our children will always be encouraged to do their personal best. It provides a broad, balanced education and places a great deal of emphasis on following shared values. Our school is a family which includes the children, staff, parents, governors, aunts, uncles, grandparents and everyone who is part of the community of Bitterley Primary School. We relish the chance to be at the centre of our local community and work hard to do all that we can in this regard.
Bitterley School Garden Project
Our school has a lovely outdoor space that was tired, falling into disrepair and in need of investment to realise its full potential.
Our Bitterley School Garden Project was created!
In early 2020 we managed to secure enough funding to clear the site and to put in the new paths and growing beds, one for each class. We are delighted to have completed this work (pictured below) with the help of Humble-Bee Gardeners for the children to start enjoying as the school reopens. We can't wait to see their reaction!
Now that we have completed this phase there is so much scope to maximise the potential of the site by creating further learning and wild zone areas. The next part of our project is to raise enough funds to build an outdoor classroom.
Outdoor Classroom Space!
Why do we need an Outdoor Classroom?
Building an outdoor classroom would provide so many benefits for our teachers and children. It would:
- Extend the classroom outside by providing a comfortable space that is both sheltered and shaded from the great British weather.
- Provide much needed extra classroom space for our children to learn in. Our school building is small and opportunities for extra classroom space are limited. Under the current climate and measures for getting our children and staff safely back to school; the value of extra classroom and zoned outside space is hugely significant.
- Allow outdoor learning to be integrated into the curriculum, across the key subjects, throughout the school year.
- Complement the new growing beds and our future aspirations for a wild zone area.
- Give a central point for a class to gather and complete learning about: food provenance; healthy eating and exercise; an understanding of the environment; and a love of nature.
- Create a more calming and engaging setting, particularly for children that might be struggling. Learning outside the four walls of a classroom also encourages creativity, problem solving, teamwork and can improve self-confidence.
- Provide a flexible learning space, the value of which can be gained in different ways to benefit all of the children, from our Little Acorns (Pre-school) right through to our Mighty Oaks Class (Year 5 & 6).
- Provide a base for after school clubs including new opportunities, such as a Gardening Club and/or Forest School.
As we start to get our staff and children safely back to school after the recent lengthy closure, the value of the above benefits could not be more important. Our children will need to adjust back to a more formal learning experience and an outdoor classroom can help provide a positive stimulating environment to support this. The measures the school needs to implement to deal with the covid-19 situation, including smaller separated groups, would benefit greatly from the extra space and outside focal point during break times.
Our Project Design and Costs!
The design concept for our classroom has been carefully considered to ensure that it is a useable, flexible space suitable for our class sizes and comfortable; providing shelter from the elements without being overbearing and adding too much shade. The finished detail of the classroom design will be informed by our children and school community in creating a sense of ownership and place.
The materials for the outdoor classroom have been selected to be long lasting and with low maintenance in mind. So long-term it will benefit the children's learning for years to come.
Classroom Floor - Replacing the old worn paving slabs with new paving will ensure longevity and low maintenance whilst making the site safe and fit for purpose. The steps/ramp would be in matching materials to provide a level non slip surface; making the outdoor classroom accessible for every child and member of staff.
To achieve this we will need to purchase materials for the paving, steps and ramp. These materials will consist of timber, sand, cement and paving slabs at a cost of £2112 (including VAT)
Classroom Structure - The classroom design concept is for a semi covered structure with a part hexagonal roof. This provides for a comfortable space in a shape designed to encourage discussion and engagement. The structure will consist of a timber covered pergola over central seating (apex construction using 6x6 posts and 2x9 boards) with integrated benches for the children to sit on. The roof will be covered with bitumen shingles which are strong, long lasting and low maintenance; as they do not need to be cleaned or treated.
To achieve this we will need to purchase timber, boards and bitumen roof shingles plus fixtures & fittings to construct the build at a cost of £4128 (including VAT).
Our total outdoor classroom cost is estimated at £6,240 (including VAT).
As a small village school funds are extremely limited. Our Parent Teacher Association (PTA), also known as Bitterley Friends, plays a vital role in funding and supporting additional learning experiences for our children such as: extra materials; class trips; sports activities; and school events. We are thankful to have the amazing support of our children's family, teachers and the local community at fundraising events throughout the year, such as: school discos, sponsored walks and our Christmas Fayre.
We are incredibly grateful to have received enough community support to clear and improve our site in the first phase of our Bitterley School Garden Project. In addition to the funds we have secured, this has been achieved with the fantastic support given to us by a local landscaping company, Humble-Bee Gardeners, based in our village. They have provided time and expertise in offering design ideas, project costings and by working on site with us.
Then Covid-19 happened... It has had a huge impact on our school and the fundraising events we had planned have had to be postponed or cancelled. Sadly this meant that our project had to be put on hold as we do not have funds available for the outdoor classroom.
Light at the end of the tunnel! We have received confirmation from a local private charitable trust, which supports charities and organisations in the South Shropshire and surrounding areas, that if we can secure £5,000 in funding for our project then they will fund the remaining balance for our outdoor classroom.
We have worked hard to transform our Bitterley School garden area. One big push could see our project through to completion unlocking its full potential. With your support we can get one step closer to achieving our goal of building an outdoor classroom for our wonderful school by early 2021!