Construction progress at Grace Cook Primary & Pre-School

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With spades, L-R Father Paul Carter, Chair of the Board, Anna Hennell James, CEO of the Orwell Multi Academy Trust, and Neil Eaton, Suffolk County Council Project Officer (Photo: Matthew Power Photography)
With spades, L-R Father Paul Carter, Chair of the Board, Anna Hennell James, CEO of the Orwell Multi Academy Trust, and Neil Eaton, Suffolk County Council Project Officer (Photo: Matthew Power Photography)

Orwell Multi-Academy Trust is celebrating the start of construction for the new primary and pre-school in Stowmarket.

In April 2021, Suffolk County Council received planning permission to build the new school, which is to be named Grace Cook Primary School. The new school will be located within Northfield View housing development, previously known as Chilton Leys.

Following community consultation, Orwell Multi-Academy Trust, which has several other academies throughout Suffolk, named the new school after Alice Grace Cook, (1877-1958) known as Grace Cook, a British Astronomer. This suggestion received substantial support from the local community, including the Town Council, as well as the Royal Astronomical Society.

Trustees felt that naming the school after Stowmarket’s pioneering female astronomer would provide a strong link to the history and community of Stowmarket, as well as being an inspirational role model for the pupils. Grace Cook joined the British Astronomical Association in 1911 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1916, part of the first group of women elected as fellows. Cook lived in Stowmarket, Suffolk and in the 1950s became a founding member of the Ipswich and District Astronomical Society. Cook died in 1958 and was remembered by her colleagues as a skilled and dedicated Astronomer.

Anna Hennell James, CEO of Orwell Multi-Academy Trust, said, “This is a very exciting day as work is progressing on the building for Grace Cook Primary School. We are looking forward to watching the building develop and preparing it for opening, ready to welcome our first pupils in September 2022”.

The school, construction of which is funded through Suffolk County Council’s capital programme and designed and project managed by Concertus Design and Property Consultants, will provide a focal point for the local neighbourhood. The school has been designed to fit in with the surrounding residential area with the external appearance intended to offer visual interest and identity for each area of the school.

Emilie Farrimond, Senior Project Manager at Concertus, said “The new Grace Cook Primary and Pre-School will provide a modern, fit for a purpose learning environment for local children, as well as helping to ease pressure on local schools due to the expansion of housing in the area. Our design is focused on representing the school’s surroundings within the colour choices and fabric of the building and creating a central community hub which will be both unique and aesthetically pleasing.”

Rachel Hood, Cabinet member for Education at Suffolk County Council, said: “The initial construction stages of the Grace Cook Primary School in Stowmarket is the next milestone in our busy programme to create additional first-rate education provision across the county. 

“The delivery of this mainstream school, and significant pre-school places, follows the opening of the new Thurston Church of England Primary Academy buildings this week and continued development of a range of new special education settings across the county.”

Councillor Penny Otton, Liberal Democrat councillor for Thedwastre South, at Suffolk County Council, said, “The new school will be an exciting part of the pupil’s education, attending this brand-new school. To name it after Grace Cook is an excellent example of celebrating one of Suffolk and Stowmarket’s women who may not be as well known as she should be.”

R G Carter has now started work at the new site, which will also be able to accommodate future expansion, help guarantee continuity of provision and meet future population growth in the area.

Leading on the construction, James Wilson, Director and General Manager from R G Carter said, “We are delighted to have been appointed to deliver this much-needed facility for the local community. We have extensive experience in providing high-quality educational facilities across the region and are looking forward to working in partnership with Orwell Multi-Academy Trust and Concertus on this exciting new project.”

The new 210 places primary school and 60 places pre-school will open in September 2022 to provide sufficient school places for local children and help support the new housing developments in the area.