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School makes move to £5.2m facility

SUNDERLAND students are jumping for joy after making the move into a new £5.2m facility, funded and designed by Sunderland City Council and built by Esh Construction.

Willow Wood Primary School, which replaces the former Willow Fields Community Primary School in Witherwack, has opened its doors to 168 three to 11-year olds, having been completed over the summer. The new school building on Redcar Road – which was funded by Sunderland City Council from its own Capital Budget as part of a £35m programme that will see six schools across the city rebuilt or refurbished – has been custom-designed to cater for modern learning with a range of facilities including vast outdoor spaces from hard surface sport and play areas to a large football pitch and wetland areas, as well as enhanced indoor facilities.

The new school, which has been designed in partnership with the Willow Wood’s leadership team – with the council’s in-house architects designing the space – will allow teachers to deliver enhanced learning for students, making use of amenities such as therapy rooms for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

Headteacher, Lindsay Robertson, who has been at the helm for four years, said teachers and students were delighted by their new learning environment.

She said: “We’re all absolutely thrilled with the school, which is just night and day compared to the old building. Everything about our new school building is aspirational and inspiring, and we know that will rub off on our amazing students who will be able to take so much pride in their learning environment, which in turn will see them take more pride in their work.”

She added: “I think our students know that, academically, things are changing. This new school building means they are now in a fresh, modern, clean environment and that will make an incredible difference to our children, our staff and to our community.”

The school will include spaces that can be used by the community, to ensure that families of the children who study there can enjoy the space. It will include state of the art technology, stunning outdoor learning spaces and a dance studio, as well as specialist facilities for children with special educational needs and disabilities – accounting for 20 per cent of the children at Willow Fields.

“We had been managing as best as we could in the old building, but it was clear to us as educators that they deserved better and that the school was not able to meet their needs or ours as teachers who want the absolute best for our children.

“Today is a fresh start. Seeing the faces of parents and young people coming into this amazing new space has just been wonderful. It’s such an exciting time for everyone, and our children deserve this more than anyone.”

Willow Fields, the school’s old site – tucked away in Witherwick – is set to be reinvented with new-build homes set to rise from the ground on the site, as part of the council’s £59m Housing Development and Investment Plan (HDIP) to create affordable homes for rent. This will create an exciting new community which will also be served by Willow Wood School.

Councillor Louise Farthing, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Our schools programme shows the absolute commitment we have to our future generations, and seeing the impact this has – directly – on young people from Sunderland is just wonderful.

“Willow Wood Primary School is an incredible new facility, that the whole community will be able to benefit from, with amenities for parents as well as children. And added to the fact that the old school site is now paving the way for a new community in Witherwack, as part of our £59m HDIP, and we’re convinced that this will regenerate and inspire our communities.”

Local contractor, Esh Construction, was responsible for building the new school. Construction Director, Brian Joyce, added: “We are delighted to hand over this fantastic new school which will provide a much-improved learning and teaching environment for the local community. I am very proud of the team, having managed the additional challenges brought by the pandemic to deliver an outstanding development in time for the new academic year.”