Invited guests, including Horsham MP Jeremy Quin, West Sussex County Council leader Paul Marshall and Cabinet Member for Learning & Skills Nigel Jupp, councillors, parents and builders, joined over 100 pupils and teachers for a celebration at Woodgate Primary School in Pease Pottage on Friday, April 8.
The event was marked with the planting of a symbolic crab apple tree by school children. The crab apple tree links the new school with the former Warninglid Primary School; the school that Woodgate replaced to safeguard its long-term future. All the teachers, administration staff, governors and most of the students from Warninglid made the short journey to the new custom-built school in September.
The tree and a new ceremonial plaque will remind Woodgate students and visitors of the 140 year legacy of Warninglid and the vision for an exciting new future for the new Woodgate Primary School.
Speakers at the ceremony included Woodgate Primary School headteacher Marion West, Thakeham Group chief executive officer, Rob Boughton and Abri’s executive director development and strategic asset management, Stephen Lodge. Thakeham with its partners Abri invested £4million and worked closely with West Sussex County Council to make the Woodgate Primary School a reality.
Woodgate head Marion West said: "This was a wonderful occasion and a fitting way to celebrate the new chapter for primary school education in the area. We were particularly pleased to mark the occasion with a crab apple tree which has symbolic significance for the Warninglid School Community.
"Whilst Woodgate Primary School is new, the spirit of the school will be faithful to the Warninglid vision and values. Warninglid was rated Good by OFSTED and proudly nurtures excellence in learning; provides a varied curriculum; and encourages free thinking, resilience and tolerance in all our students. That’s the perfect blend of values and experience we are bringing to the new Woodgate Primary School as the new chapter evolves."
Rob Boughton, Thakeham CEO said: "This was a wonderful day for the new school here at Woodgate. Having opened a matter of months ago, it is already becoming the new heartbeat of the community.
"With families and children in mind, Thakeham in partnership with Abri sought to fund and deliver Woodgate Primary School at an early stage of the development. I am especially proud of the way we have delivered an inspirational place of learning, we exceeded substantially the Department for Education guidelines for a primary school and I am so, so proud of the truly exceptional facilities this school offers. We are grateful to everyone who played their part in helping us to design and realise a school to make West Sussex proud."
Prior to relocating to its new home, West Sussex County Council created a plan to relocate the school to safeguard its future, which was approved by the Council’s cabinet in April 2020. Working closely with the governors, school community and Thakeham, the new Woodgate Primary School opened in September 2021 with 70 pupils, more than doubling the size of the school.
The new school has the capacity to continue to increase its pupil numbers into the future, offering five classrooms and early years nursery provision, a 18m2 main hall, library, multifunctional space and a special educational needs room.
Nigel Jupp, West Sussex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Learning & Skills said: "It is extremely pleasing to see this school flourishing in its new surroundings while honouring the traditions of its rich 140-year history. The building has the space to allow this school to continue to grow and this is a great example of partnership work which has safeguarded this school for future generations of children to enjoy."
At the opening ceremony, the school pupils and teachers were presented with celebratory Easter Eggs. The eggs featured the school logo and date as a memento of the occasion and a fun pre-Easter holiday gift.
In November last year, Thakeham and Abri confirmed that it had contributed a further £10,000 to establish a new nursery at Woodgate Primary School. The five-figure sum is in addition to the £4million invested in the new school.
Abri’s executive director development and strategic asset management, Stephen Lodge said: "It was fantastic to celebrate the opening of the new school and to see how much it means to the community and to the students. We’d always hoped that by building the school at the early stages of development this would set the foundations for a thriving new community and we can now see this coming to fruition.
"Thank you to everyone that has helped make this possible. It’s great to see the school becoming such a focal point and how the state-of-the-art facilities are helping to give young people the best start in life."
The latest gift from Thakeham means the school will also host its own nursery, bringing on-the-doorstep childcare facilities to residents of Woodgate village and the surrounding Pease Pottage area.