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Stepps Primary School

Category: Schools

"I love our new school.  I love coming into work every day. It's been a terrific experience and I know others come up with negatives but, seriously, we just don't have any.  It's just been a wonderful time for all of us."

Anne D'Ouse, Headteacher, Stepps Primary School

February, 2009


Stepps Primary School is part of the £170 million North Lanarkshire Schools PFI Project which reached financial close in June 2005.  

The original Stepps School was built in 1902 but in recent years had become dilapidated and well past its best. The new school, which was constructed on a different site, was fully operating in November 2007 and is a state-of-the-art facility. 

The PPP Forum interviewed Anne D'Ouse, Headteacher, and Wendy Davie, Deputy Headteacher,  to find out what they think about their new PFI school.

First, what was the old school like?

We were in a traditional village school building that had been built in the early 1900s.  By the time we came to move, the school was in a poor condition. In terms of delivering a modern education, it was incredibly difficult, but the staff team did a remarkable job, given the facilities that we were working in.  They had amazing initiative in making spaces work even though some of the spaces were less than ideal. 

How did the construction process go? 

The site manager kept us up to date with how construction was progressing on a regular basis. There was never a point where we didn't know what was going on; there was continuous feedback. Everything was dealt with really well. We would then pass the information on to the children. 

Unfortunately the date of the move into the new buildings was delayed because of a problem with Japanese Knotweed. However when we finally moved in, the whole process went very well. This was down to good planning and a lot of hard work on our side as well as good liaising from Pickfords, the removal firm. On the first day of school after the move everything was exactly how the children needed it to be. 

Initially there was a sadness amongst pupils about the prospect of moving out of the old school, which had been the centre of the community for a long time.  However a lot of work was done by North Lanarkshire Council and school staff to involve the community in the design of the new buildings. This helped to turn sadness about losing the old school into enthusiasm for the new.

What do you think of your new school?

We think the design is just stunning.  The nice thing about the Balfour Beatty schools is that each of the designs is different. But out of all the new schools in North Lanarkshire we seriously believe we've got the best design of all. We just love it. 

From the start the kids really liked the new buildings. There was a very small minority who initially found the open-plan format difficult to adapt to. However these problems have been resolved and most of the children immediately saw the potential of the new build and took to it very well. 

What are the main differences between the new and the old school?

Opportunities.  Opportunities for children to have the richest learning experiences possible, and those opportunities are so huge that we're only just putting our toe in the water now. For a start we now have a separate gym hall whereas in the old school the gym hall was also the dining hall. We have a dining room, which can double up as a teaching facility.  We have a "noisy quiet room" which is an absolute godsend.  It's somewhere children can go and have free reign to be creative in whatever is appropriate without disturbing anyone. We also have a resource library/ICT suite.  We had none of these things in the old school. 

Now that the school is finished how is the operating stage?

Balfour Beatty Workplace have been incredibly proactive in responding to issues.  It's small, simple things like the corners.  Because children are moving around corridors they can't help  brushing against corners which makes the corners of the walls quite grubby. Initially we had someone running around with a paint pot just touching things up.  Balfour Beatty have now put plastic protectors on the corners that were causing the greatest problem.  

We have regular monthly meetings with Balfour Beatty Workplace and if we take anything to that meeting it's always addressed and a solution is found. We help them, they help us and we work together.  It's not an "us" and "them" scenario.  Sometimes when we raise an issue they respond by saying I'm glad you've raised that but, actually, that's your domain, you need to deal with that.  And that's absolutely as it should be. 

What do you say about your PFI school if people ask you?

I love it.  I love coming into work every day. It's been a terrific experience and I know others come up with negatives but, seriously, we just don't have any.  It's just been a wonderful time for all of us.