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St Joseph's Primary School in Sudbury cuts ribbon on new classroom facilities after building work completed during coronavirus crisis




A Sudbury primary school is celebrating a much-needed upgrade to its classroom facilities, after builders persevered amid the coronavirus pandemic to complete the project in time for the next academic year.

Senior staff at St Joseph’s Primary School and partners from Sudbury-based Cooper and Kelling Builders gathered on Tuesday to formally cut the ribbon on a new school outbuilding, built from start to finish during the lockdown period.

The addition, which includes two new classrooms, had been planned for the last five years, but faced a major hurdle when the lockdown began in March, forcing the closure of schools nationwide and significant restrictions on the construction trade.

St Joseph's Roman Catholic Primary School in Sudbury has a new building with two classrooms..Pictured: Lee Cooper (Partner at Cooper and Kelling), Maria Kemble (Executive Head Teacher), Tom Kelling (Partner at Cooper and Kelling) and Steven Allen (Owner at Steven James Allen Architectural and Structural Design)....PICTURE: Mecha Morton.. (39386419)
St Joseph's Roman Catholic Primary School in Sudbury has a new building with two classrooms..Pictured: Lee Cooper (Partner at Cooper and Kelling), Maria Kemble (Executive Head Teacher), Tom Kelling (Partner at Cooper and Kelling) and Steven Allen (Owner at Steven James Allen Architectural and Structural Design)....PICTURE: Mecha Morton.. (39386419)

But after securing agreement that the project could be categorised as essential work, the contractors pressed ahead from April and finished work this month, overcoming initial shortages of materials due to the closure of many builders’ merchants.

Maria Kemble, executive headteacher at St Joseph’s, said the new facility will have a big impact, enabling the school to move away from mixed year group classes to help improve pupil learning and reduce teacher workloads.

“It will make a phenomenal difference,” she told the Free Press. “We’ve been using our library as a classroom for the last two years, so we will get use of our library back and it will make things better for teachers and pupils.

“Historically, St Joseph’s has had mixed year group classes, so the vision was to have one year group in each class.

“We had a couple of anxious weeks, because we knew any delay could mean the building wouldn’t be ready for September.

“I have to say the builders have been great. I can’t speak highly enough of them and the crew, because they did everything in their power to make sure the project was completed on time.

“It’s a lovely building. The staff are so happy. When the children came into school for their sessions just before the end of term, you could see the excitement in their faces. They were in awe.”

Mrs Kemble explained that parents and pupils were also able to keep up with the project while at home over the last three months, through the school’s regular filmed assemblies, which shared footage of the building’s progress.

Hollie Osborne, customer liaison manager at Cooper and Kelling Builders, stated the project had been challenging, with limited numbers allowed on site and social distancing measures in place, but the team was delighted with the end result.

“The partners are really happy with the project and, overall, everyone is really pleased with how it turned out,” she said.

“I think it was quite nice for people to see that, although it has been very tough for everyone, projects like this can be done, and done safely as well.

“It’s good to show these things can be done, even with the mayhem of what’s going on in the world at the moment.”

She added that, after a tough period for business, the firm has seen an increase in inquiries for its services, as more people look to work on their homes during the pandemic.