Earlier in March I had the privilege of attending the opening of the borough’s new, state-of-the-art nursery school building.
The Royal Borough was honoured to have Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Gloucester officially open the new nursery building at St Anne’s and Avondale Park Nursery School.
The Royal visit took place immediately after the children’s lunchtime. No doubt the usual playground banter was interspersed with claim and counter-claim over who might get to meet her.
Playground banter aside, the journey towards the nursery opening began some time ago.
Both Avondale Park Primary School and St Anne’s Nursery School have existed for many years in the Royal Borough. The two schools always shared a commitment to educational excellence while maintaining strong community ties and, in 2014, they made the decision to federate.
Following federation, the Council funded a £2 million construction programme to build the new nursery building on Avondale Park Primary School’s spacious Sirdar Road site.
Work on the nursery building began in late 2015 and building works were completed on time and on budget in August 2016 – in time for the first children to arrive that September.
And what a stunning new facility they have!
As we toured the two new classrooms, the new nursery entrance and new outdoor playground areas I must say I felt proud of the Council’s commitment to giving children the best start in life. Education provides the greatest opportunity to make a lifelong difference.
In September, most of the nursery children will be attending one of our 38 primary schools in the Borough, of which 95 per cent are judged to be ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted.
Both the nursery entrance and playground were resplendent with Union Flag bunting on the day, a fitting welcome for Her Royal Highness.
The Duchess was met by Charles Manners, Chair of Governors, before being introduced to the Mayor of the Royal Borough, Mrs Elizabeth Rutherford.
The Mayor then accompanied the Duchess as she met Headteacher Katy Blackler and other staff, before meeting a number of school pupils lined up along the corridor.
Pupils were on their best behaviour for the occasion as The Duchess asked them about what they were learning and what they thought of the new nursery building.
By now most of the nursery children were back in their classrooms and the Royal party toured through nursery classrooms. These modern places of learning have everything from touch-screen TVs, which helped the children to learn about shapes, letters and numbers, to the traditional building blocks and crayons that even I can remember.
We joined both the nursery and school pupils in the school hall to be treated to a performance from the school choir, who sung beautifully.
Katy thanked Her Royal Highness for attending and spoke about how pleased she was to see years of work coming to fruition.
The Duchess highlighted how the new facilities were welcome for nursery children, school pupils, teachers, and staff alike when she said “I wish everyone who comes to this nursery, whether to teach or to learn, all the very best.”
Katy then called for two nursery children to help The Duchess with the important task of unveiling a plaque commemorating the opening of the new nursery building.
The audience was invited to participate in the final performance – a heartfelt rendition of ‘If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands’.
With so much to celebrate in the new nursery building, and with educational opportunities across the Borough, I’m pleased to say I was clapping along with them.