CROFT Primary School opened its doors for the first time yesterday as months of controversy finally gave way to the business of education.
Much of the school still resembled a building site, ringed with fencing and safety tape, as the first intake of 39 pupils settled in to their new surroundings.
But parents were adamant the ‘modular’ project had been needed to alleviate demand for places, and praised the design of the completed buildings.
Claire Nunn, 38, and four-year-old daughter Ella were among the newcomers who walked up the path in the sunshine.
“It’s lovely, really bright and colourful with lots of things for the kids to play with,” she said.
“It’s really well set out, I’m impressed. It’s not only going to be a school but a social meeting place and a sports centre. It’s going to benefit the whole of Old Town .”
The Lakeside resident chose the 420-pupil school, off Marlborough Lane, as her first choice, despite residents saying it was unnecessary and poorly designed.
“I think most of the people complaining don’t have kids of primary age who desperately need a place,” she said.
“This area is one of the places that really needed a new primary school. Lethbridge had a waiting list of 48 and Lawn had a list of 24. Parents who wanted places couldn’t get them.”
Erica Bond, 36, was showing her four-year-old son Harrison where to hang up his coat before leaving him to enjoy the day’s topic of dinosaurs and princesses.
“It’s stunning. I’m really impressed,” she said.
“They have done an excellent job and worked really hard to get it done in time for our children. It’s exceptional. My son is absolutely loving it, he’s so excited.”
The nurse, who is also from Lakeside, remained unswayed by the concerted opposition from residents after making Croft her first choice. “I think there was a massive case for the school as there is a desperate need for places,” she said.
“I appreciate the fact that the residents didn’t want it, but we all have things we don’t want on our doorstep. It isn’t all up and running but it was more important to have the new places ready.”
Dr Nick Capstick, executive headteacher of the White Horse Federation of Schools, which runs Croft, greeted parents as they arrived.
He said: “A parent walked up the pathway and the first thing she said was, ‘it’s lovely’. It’s the best endorsement we could have had and it makes it all worthwhile.
“In over 25 years of teaching, which includes trips to America and to Australia, this is the best educational environment I have ever seen.
“I can’t deny that the back of the building is still under construction but the pod that’s in there is from top to bottom of a massively high standard.
“The whole environment has been built with kids in mind rather than shoe-horning education into a building.”
But campaigners say admissions are proof school is not needed CAMPAIGNERS against Croft Primary said admissions figures released online at the weekend prove the under-subscribed school was never needed.
Kareen Boyd also questioned why the number of pupils cited by executive headteacher Dr Nick Capstick yesterday differed from Swindon Council’s own September 2012 admissions guide.
Mrs Boyd referred to figures, available to the council from January, showing just 23 pupils had been allocated a place – down from Mr Capstick’s figure of 39. Both targets fall short of the 60 places the school had intended to open with.
Residents also say evidence against the school had been brushed aside and the project would cause traffic chaos.
Mrs Boyd, of Hesketh Crescent, said: “If the council’s figures are correct as published it would be interesting to know where the other 16 pupils have come from, as they have not been included in the admissions guide. Another question is why is there over-provision in Old Town and under-provision in the northern sector?”
She also said just 13 of the children were from the catchment area.
A Swindon Council spokesman said: “The number of children who are attending Croft Primary in the week of opening is 38. Indications are that 29 of the children will be walking to the school with their parents or carers, which shows that those attending are local to the area.
“Our experience with other new schools shows that it is highly likely the number of pupils at Croft will rise over the coming months.
“The nearby East Wichel Primary School started with only 12 pupils, but a year later had 59 pupils in its two reception classes with just one spare place left. The school now has over 150 pupils on its roll. Orchid Vale Primary and Oakhurst Primary initially only had 18 and 21 pupils respectively. But five months after they opened, the reception classes in both schools were full.
“There are no safety issues or any other factors outstanding that would have prevented us from opening Croft today, and the school was subject to a pre-opening inspection by Ofsted in the week prior to its opening and was fully compliant with their requirements.”
The spokesman said another pupil may have been added when Dr Capstick cited the figure of 39.