Parents and teachers give Hornchurch school a holiday makeover

Parents together with headteacher David Leech see about giving St Mary's Catholic Primary School in

Parents together with headteacher David Leech see about giving St Mary's Catholic Primary School in Hornchurch a holiday makeover - Credit: Archant

When a school found it could not afford maintenance costs, parents, grandparents and staff decided to take drastic measures.

Despite a 12 per cent decrease in the budget due to government cuts, vital repairs still needed to be carried out at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Hornchurch Road, Hornchurch.

Headteacher David Leech, called companies to ascertain costs to increase the size and redevelop the early years outdoor play area and was quoted £60,000.

“It wasn’t feasible,” he said.

“We just didn’t have the spare cash in the budget any more.”

Together with school governor Gary Redmond, 53, of Hillcrest Road, Hornchurch, the idea was born to utilise the skills and talents of parents.

“I wrote to parents to ask them if they would be willing to help during the school holidays,” continued Mr Leech.

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Around 15 parents and grandparents responded and a work committee was formed made up of carpenters, painters, electricians and builders, including teachers.

“Others were willing to make teas and coffees,” he continued.

“The work is still ongoing but what they have done in two to three weeks is remarkable.”

Mr Redmond added: “We work together and enjoy each others company so we achieve a good amount of work.

“The school hasn’t had a facelift for 20 years.”

With other jobs themselves, the relatives of children picked up tools and get to work from early morning until late at night.

Mr Redmond said the play area has now been extended to at least four times its existing size and a new recreation area in the playground has been made.

“This was an overgrown area of trees and shrubbery which had no value,” continued Mr Redmond.

“We are now looking at furniture so children can sit or play.”

Team members also cleaned the drains around the school as the budget could not afford professional drain cleaners.

“Hopefully the children can come back in September and say wow,” he added.

The school now has a new design and technology area with work benches, has had the whole of the outside of the school painted, a landscaped wildlife garden and pond, a mud kitchen, complete with running water, to encourage imaginative play and a cobbled stream with a hand pump.

Work has so far cost £10,000 and is expected to rise to £20,000, far below the quotes received.

Together with the generosity of donations from local businesses, the school’s parents and friends association managed to raise the cash through events held throughout the year.

The school now has a stage area for the children to perform on.