Lockdown project almost complete as Chesterfield caretaker transforms school into magical wonderland

A project to spruce up a Chesterfield school during lockdown is nearing completion – and its caretaker has been praised for his creative efforts.

Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 5:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 9:07 am
The new 'Wonder Tree' at Cavendish Junior School
The new 'Wonder Tree' at Cavendish Junior School

Armed with a tin of yellow paint, talented caretaker Lee Turner painted the cobbled courtyard at Cavendish Junior School so that it now resembles the Yellow Brick Road from the classic novel The Wizard of Oz.

He turned an old metal bucket and bin into The Tin Man and, with a little help from pupils at the Newbold Moor school, he has created more than 60 bird boxes for feathery residents.

Lee, from Staveley, has also played a key role in transforming an old classroom into the Curiosity Cabin - a room inspired by literacy charity Grimm & Co, who produce workshops and out of school clubs for childred between seven and 11-years-old.

Caretaker Lee Turner with pupils and interim headteacher Rebecca Freeston

“I absolutely love working at Cavendish Junior School. The children here are an absolute joy; there’s never a dull moment and it really feels like a small family,” said the 46-year-old.

“We decided to brighten up the school during the first lockdown. I think there’s just one more classroom that needs decorating. It feels more ‘homely’ now; there’s a warm atmosphere at school.

“It’s been a labour of love and everyone has been involved. We have painted a tree on the wall in one of the corridors and called it The Wonder Tree; it has inspiring quotes on it and the ‘leaves’ are pieces of green paper which have been cut into different shapes. All the children have written messages on them.

“The courtyard was fairly ordinary and needed brightening up, so we came up with an idea to paint it like The Yellow Brick Road and to keep the theme of The Wizard of Oz running throughout the area.

The painted courtyard area at Cavendish Junior School which now resembles the Yellow Brick Road from the classic novel The Wizard of Oz

“And then we have the Curiosity Cabin, which is jam-packed with curios and was inspired by a trip to Grimm and Co in Rotherham.

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“The Curiosity Cabin encourages children to use their own imagination. There are certain things in there that they can use for inspiration when writing, such as old radios and reading books; there’s all sorts in there.”

Every Friday, Cavendish Junior School hosts ‘Cavendish College’; a whole-school initiative where children take part in practical tasks such as textiles, art and gardening.

During these sessions, Lee has been helping pupils create bird boxes out of old pallets to teach them about sustainability and protecting the environment.

He added: “It’s a lovely way to get the whole school together and it’s nice to see pupils of different ages mixing. The older ones often help the little ones out and nurture them into doing certain activities.”

And his efforts to brighten up the school haven’t gone unnoticed by staff and parents.

Interim headteacher Rebecca Freeston said: “Lee is fantastic with the children. He is very much involved in school life and often goes on trips – he even takes part in the weekly Pilates sessions we have at school to encourage mindfulness.

“We’re grateful for the work he has put in to making Cavendish Junior School warm, welcoming and a positive place to learn and grow. There have been so many encouraging words from visitors into the school.

“Lee is an integral part of the team here at Cavendish.”

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