Battle is on to save St Albans primary school’s facilities

PARENTS and governors at a primary school set to become one of the largest in St Albans are battling to provide key features which were lost as a result of budget cuts.

Mandeville JMI in St Albans agreed to become a two form of entry school three years ago to ease the problems caused by shortage of primary places. As a result the county council approved a �7 million project to extend and refurbish the building.

But work on the project had barely begun when it ground to a halt in August and although it restarted in September, it followed a summer of negotiations on ways to cut costs.

As a result, even though the shell of the new extension and basic refurbishment will be completed pretty much on schedule by September next year, a lot of the additional features which the school was keen to incorporate will no longer be provided.

So at the instigation of one of the governors, parents have stepped in and formed an action group, Mandaid, in a bid to raise �100,000 to construct an outdoor learning facility and incorporate other key features such as solar panels and a water harvesting system, a Key Stage One imaginative reading area, food technology facilities and external features such as play equipment and social seating.

Headteacher Amanda Godfrey said the work had received planning permission and they were already quite a long way down the road when they heard that budgetry cuts were required.

Initially they included such improvements as window replacement and heating upgrades but after negotiation, the school was allowed to keep them.

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But what was to have been a high-spec and sustainable building with lots of learning facilities will be little more than bare rooms when they are handed over to the school next summer.

Ms Godfrey said the school was particularly sorry to lose the proposed canopy running outside the classrooms because it would have been a perfect learning environment for some of the children and enable messy and investigative work to be carried out.

But, she explained, everything was stripped away and a lot of items were downgraded such as the carpets and better quality fixtures and fittings.

She went on: “We were appalled that a project we had worked on for 18 months and the aspirations we had for the building to provide the best quality for the children was taken from us and a different one was put in its place. We were incredibly disappointed at that.

“We are realistic and accept that we are now in a different financial climate but we do want to deliver the best we can so we identified the things which were most important to us to try and raise the money either by fundraising, grants or charitable sources.”

When it is a full two-form entry school Mandeville will have 450 pupils making it one of the largest primary schools in the district.

Mandaid was set up in October and has already raised around �1,000. It is looking to get the wider community involved and is encouraging people to use the Mandeville online shop which can be accessed via

There is no registration fee involved and the school gets commission for every purchase made after clicking through the shop.

The company which runs the online shop is holding a Christmas competition and every week five retailers need to be promoted. Mandaid has entered for two weeks and won �500 last Saturday by wearing t-shirts promoting the specific retailers at the school fair.

The group is doing the same this week and hoping to win the top prize of �1,000 by promoting Ticketmaster, MyBag, Vodafone, Very and La Senza.

The head added: “Parents are being really innovative and have a great website which everyone can support.”