East Ardsley Primary School
"In my mind I don't think our school would have been rebuilt without PFI. This would still have been a split site. You wouldn't have had the same atmosphere, the same community spirit and the same collaboration between staff members. It's brilliant."
Jane Wedlinscky, Headteacher, East Ardsley Primary School
East Ardsley Primary School is part of the £37 million Leeds Schools PFI Project which reached construction completion in August 2005. The original mixed Junior School in East Ardsley was constructed in 1892 and has been completely rebuilt to ensure it can now meet the challenges of modern education.
Jane Wedlinscky started as Headteacher at East Ardsley in October 2006. Having interviewed her (acting) predecessor, Chris Bowker, earlier in 2006, the PPP Forum wanted to find out what she thinks about her new PFI school.
Do you have any comments about the physical structure of the building?
"I like the classrooms. I think they have been well planned out and I think it works very well having a mix of carpeted and non-carpeted areas for different activities. It's good that every classroom is the same, so there aren't teachers thinking: "I wish I was working in that classroom because it's bigger."
We have a fantastic staff room. I've taught in seven schools in Leeds and this is the only school with a staff room where I can sit all my staff down for a meeting. So I think there was some good planning there.
Also the structure is flexible enough to make it relatively simple to make changes. For example, upstairs we have two small areas which are relatively under-used. In their place we're looking to make a mini ICT suite.
We're very happy with our electronic whiteboards which we even have in the nursery, which is not that common. I'm amazed how much the children aged three and four use the whiteboards. We are very lucky; the technology is brilliant.
I like the layout of the school. This said I wish I'd been here when the amendments were made to the original design, because I would have switched the ICT suite and the library around."
In terms of the operation, have you had any particular problems, in terms of the running of the school?
"None at all. For example, the standard of cleaning is excellent here. I think a lot of the issues which arise in other schools are to do with the leadership of the Headteacher. As far as I'm concerned the catering and cleaning teams are my staff. I treat them as my staff and I always have done, and if I give thank yous out, or if I buy things for the staff, I buy them exactly the same as I buy my teaching staff. I don't treat anybody differently. I think if you treat people equally you get a lot more back from the team that you're working with.
A lot of things, small things, have been fixed and I've been happy with the way they've been sorted out.
In a PFI school Headteachers can get on with teaching and learning; they don't have to get bogged down with maintenance issues."
Are the community using the facilities here?
"They are now. When I first came they weren't. I think initially people thought that using the facilities would be expensive and were put off by that. But when people realised that they didn't have to pay for community use, things changed."
To what extent does the new school help with staff recruitment/retention?
"The staff that have come while I've been Headteacher say the building has a lot to do with wanting to apply for the job.
There is a pleasant atmosphere which I think is particularly helped by the lighting. The environment seems to have a calming influence on the children. For instance, we are in a working school, and yet on some days you can hardly hear a pin drop."
How are pupil levels?
"Last year we had 60 children applying for 45 places in reception. I think parents like this new building. They know everything is new or modern."
Do you have any general comments about the benefits of a PFI project?
"Old Victorian school buildings aren't now suitable for what we need in this day and age. Some people like them but actually they can be quite a headache. It is difficult to fit ICT suites into small rooms. From a Health and Safety perspective wooden lockers in corridors are a fire risk. However you can be sure that a PFI school will be up to date as regards Health and Safety and also will be geared up for use by the disabled.
In my mind I don't think our school would have been rebuilt without PFI. This would still have been a split site. You wouldn't have had the same atmosphere, the same community spirit and the same collaboration between staff members. It's brilliant."