'Heart-warming' community effort transforms Corby school space - masterminded by 'amazing' teaching assistants

The volunteers have worked tirelessly for seven weeks during their summer holidays

Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 4:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th September 2021, 5:08 pm

A pair of dedicated teaching assistants have spent their summer holidays renovating a neglected learning space ready as a breakout space for children with special educational needs.

Amy Medhurst and Carrie Weatherley, teaching assistants at Woodnewton - A Learning Community, were informed in July that some children who were hoping to go to a special education provision didn't have spaces and would be remaining in a mainstream setting.

The pair were given an old hall for their classroom but, wanting the best for the pupils in their care, the two colleagues decided to ask the community to help transform the area.

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l-r Amy Medhurst and Carrie Weatherley who project managed the transformation of the garden and the classroom

Working on the project during the whole summer break the indoor and outdoor areas were gutted and refurbished by an army of volunteers with a grand ribbon cutting and party to celebrate the end of the project..

Thanking her colleagues, academy principal Kim Kemp said: "Through Carrie and Amy's dedication and hard work there has been a fantastic transformation - it's stunning and beautiful.

"The room was a vision back in July. It was a lovely space but it wasn't going to do what we wanted it to do.

"They have worked the whole summer. They have rallied the community - the response has been wonderful. It's so heart-warming, so amazing."

Before

The pair work with children with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans who because of their additional needs don't always cope with the hustle and bustle of busy classrooms.

The new space will allow children to have one-to-one time in an appropriate environment and then return to lessons when ready.

Some of the children who will be accessing the newly transformed classroom have not been able to find places at the district's specialist schools.

Snipping the official ribbon to launch the room was Mayor of Kettering Scott Edwards, NNC Executive Member for Children, Families, Education and Skills, as well as an in-coming governor of Woodnewton

The room has been refurbished to the highest standards

Praising the team behind the transformation he said: "They have done amazing work from start to finish. I will be taking this away to other schools.

"The dedication and enthusiasm of all the staff and community is amazing."

Friars Multi-Academy Trust has opened a new school for pupils with learning needs and autism, at Chelveston Road School near Higham Ferrers.

When fully open the school will cater for 145 pupils, with the first tranche of pupils starting in Year 7 this month. A sixth form provision is also being created in the centre of Kettering.

The garden after the makeover

Amy said: "There isn't enough space for all the children with special educational needs (SEN). There is nowhere for them to go so we wanted to create a safe space for them.

"We cannot call it a specialist provision but it will be a designated space for children with specific special needs and disabilities all with EHCPs and because of the lack of spaces in specialist provisions.

"They can't manage in a class with up to 30, This is a safe space for them and we are going to get outreach from Red Kites Academy."

Carrie said: "This is their space. They can't run anywhere. We've transformed it and we've already seen it transform the children. Now the space is here, it will be here for years to come."

The colleagues, now firm friends, sent out hundreds of emails and made dozens of phone calls to enlist helpers - from family members, school parents and from companies across the area.

Carrie said: "I went on an email spree reaching out to companies. The community spirit has put back my faith in humanity. I felt guilty when I went on holiday for a week."

The outdoor space has been repurposed for the children with SEN

Volunteers included Amy's dad Mick Medhurst and Dave Icke - who worked round the clock to finish the project replacing electrics, walls, doors, plaster and floors.

Mick said: "It's brilliant. In the last week it all came together. I've been here every day - I'm supposed to be retired!"

Dave, who owns Di Plastering Carpentry, fitted working at the school around his other jobs, labouring on the flooring, kitchen, doors, kitchen and liaising with suppliers.

He said: "Amy is a good friend of mine and one of the children is my wife's nephew. It's nice to see their happy faces, seeing the children run around."

Dan Turner fitted a fence around the newly sectioned off outside area that has newly-created hidey holes, decked seating and raised beds.

He said: "We're happy to help. It's a nice opportunity to help the school. If it wasn't for Carrie and Amy none of this would have happened. They rallied the people."

Carley Loughran's son Albie, five, is one of the children who has already used the new room.

She said: "It's fantastic. He's a completely different child. Before he didn't want to come to school, now he's so calm. Academically he's great but we were quite badly let down by North Northamptonshire Council - everywhere was full. They said just put him in a corridor. He's autistic and gets overwhelmed.

"This is life-changing. He talks about it non-stop. He says 'I'm so happy, let's go to school.' I can't thank the school enough."

Amy has had one day off throughout the summer break for her foundation degree graduation ceremony.

She added: "My son has autism and he's been failed by the system, so when I was given the opportunity I wasn't going to let someone else go through that. It's a small sacrifice. Their progression will be huge."

Amy and Carrie want to thank Mick Medhurst, Dave Icke, Dan Turner, Colin McGreevy, Grant Smith, Drage Electrics, MKM Building Supplies, Howdens Corby, JTS Carpet, Richard's Plants at West Lodge Garden Centre, B&Q Kettering, Wickes Corby, Asda Corby, Damien Weatherley, Leanne Aston of Wirey Words and Sweet Temptations.

New flooring has been installed as well as new plaster, electrics and carpets
Special calm down safe spaces have been created
Mayor of Kettering Scott Edwards was on hand to cut the ribbon as NNC Executive Member for Children, Families, Education and Skills, as well as an in-coming governor of Woodnewton - a learning community with staff and volunteers who worked on the project