Community answers school’s call for help

THOUSANDS of pounds has been raised by the local community in a matter of days towards a new social space for students at The Blue School, Wells.

More than 20 classrooms at the school have had to be closed after a structural engineer discovered significant cracking in concrete floors in Kennion block.

The school has also lost a significant amount of social space, said headteacher Mark Woodlock in a letter he sent to parents and carers on January 19 in which he asked for help with funding a project to build a new sheltered area next to Bailey Hall that students can use at break and lunchtimes.

The project will cost in the region of £40,000, and after a donation of £10,000 from Glastonbury Festivals, that left another £30,000 to find.

Rachel Sherman launched a fundraiser that evening on JustGiving and the response has been staggering, with donations pouring in from hundreds of individuals and businesses, meaning that the target was reached in just four days – and the total continues to grow.

“We are truly grateful for the heartfelt actions of the community who have really pulled together to make this happen. The enthusiasm for the project is enormous,” said Rachel, who is an admin with two friends for the Wells Community Noticeboard Facebook group, which has 22,000 members, and whose children have both attended The Blue School.

“Wells as a community and the businesses and people donating from surrounding areas have really shown The Blue School just how much it is valued,” she said. “Thank you everyone, so much.”

Mark Woodlock said: “We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the support we have received from our local community. Our parents and the wider community have been amazing since we first reported the problems in our Kennion building just after Christmas. The messages of support and offers of help have sustained us through these difficult weeks. 

“The issues with our buildings will take time to resolve and are severely compromising our available accommodation in school. In addition to the strain on classrooms, our social spaces have been affected. Plans to create an additional outdoor space were already in place, but we found ourselves unable to finance this from school funds which have to be diverted for the building works.

“We are thankful to the Glastonbury Festivals team for a very generous donation, following which a JustGiving page set up by a parent has elicited support from hundreds of members of our community – current parents, former parents, former students, grandparents, staff, governors, former staff, local businesses – all with amazing messages of support as well as very generous donations. This will enable us to move forward with our plans and give our students some much-needed additional social space. We are extremely grateful to all.”

An installation company is ready to carry out the necessary work during February half-term, but the funding needed to be in place first.

Donations can still be made, which the school will use for the benefit of students. The link for the JustGiving page is:

Headteacher Mark Woodlock, second left, discusses the situation at The Blue School with Baroness Barran and Wells MP James Heappey, right

A few days before the funding letter was sent out, the school was visited by Baroness Barran, the Department for Education Minister with responsibility for school and college buildings, and Wells MP James Heappey, along with officials from the Department for Education involved in the provision of temporary accommodation.

The school is planning for temporary classrooms on site should they prove necessary after additional structural investigations into Kennion are completed, with some year groups currently having to undertake some online lessons at home.

Mr Woodlock and the Chair of the school’s governors, Jonathan Brown, took the Minister and Mr Heappey around the affected buildings and showed them the potential sites for temporary accommodation.

Following the visit, Mr Heappey said: “I am grateful to the Minister for taking the time to come to Wells and see the issues the school is facing.

“Parents, teachers, and the Government all share a desire to minimise the amount of time students spend away from school which is why the school’s leadership team and officials from the Department for Education are working at such pace to deliver temporary accommodation. “I will continue to join the weekly update meetings to support the school in accessing whatever resources they need.”