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Pilmuir Primary's acting head teacher appreciates school community working around renovations on return after lockdown

By Garry McCartney

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Pilmuir Primary's house captains, acting head teacher Helen Thorley and deputy head teacher Andrea Main.
Pilmuir Primary's house captains, acting head teacher Helen Thorley and deputy head teacher Andrea Main.

AN acting head teacher has spoken of her pride in the way her staff and pupils have dealt with a difficult year.

Helen Thorley is also grateful to Pilmuir Primary’s community for the manner in which everyone is working around extensive upgrades to the school building, having just returned after months in lockdown.

She said: “I’m excited and relieved to see all the children back in school. We’ve put measures in place to ensure we’re all as safe as we can be, and the children and staff have embraced them.

“The first week back was full of energy and there is still a buzz as the children rebuild connections with each other and our staff. Seeing the pupils play and learn again involves building good relationships – they’ve clearly missed each other!”

During lockdown the school was open to support Google Classrooms and paper-pack learning. The staff managed this while working with children of essential workers in the school hub and while balancing their own lives.

Mrs Thorley added: “I’m proud of the children, their families and our staff. The children have – once again – come back ready to reconnect. As a mother-of-three, I know the challenges of working and home schooling. And everyone has had to get used to a new head teacher, huts being knocked down and the many challenges that education normally brings. I’m grateful to our community for supporting the school, and I look forward to meeting everyone over the coming months.”

Pilmuir's roof is being re-tiled over the Easter holidays.
Pilmuir's roof is being re-tiled over the Easter holidays.

Moray Council is completing a 12-week roof upgrading as part of an ongoing programme of improvements to the 40-year-old school.

Last year’s opening of its new nursery meant Pilmuir could refurbish the old section and extend the available space for the older pupils.

Mrs Thorley said: “I’m really excited to see the developments. I was appointed acting head just before Christmas, and there have been a whirlwind of developments since then. The roofing is part of wider works taking place to bring our building into the 21st century. The contractors will be working through the Easter holiday on longer hours. We are grateful to our neighbours for their understanding and support with the additional movement and noise.”

Construction workers and project planners regularly discuss their work with Mrs Thorley’s team to minimise disruptions. In turn, the staff and pupils have been working around the contractors with “team work, solution-oriented thinking and a sense of humour”.

Mrs Thorley added: “The biggest challenge has been losing some of the playground space while work continues, but luckily the weather has been kind, so we’ve used the playing fields. We’ve also not been able to use “The Well” – our secure quadrant in the middle of the school for play and exploration in an enclosed environment.

“We may need to utilise the school hall and additional areas if the noise above classrooms becomes too much.”

Pilmuir now has a fenced-off outdoor classroom behind the school for “play pedagogy” – learning through play.

Mrs Thorley said: “This is at a very early stage and we will be aiming to add mud kitchens, loose parts and many other things.

“We will be looking to work with the school community to make this area unique to the needs of the children.”

Acting head of housing and property at Moray Council, Moray MacLeod, confirmed Pilmuir will be considered in the wider Forres context as part of learning estate strategy work starting imminently following recruitment for the core team. Forres, Elgin and Buckie are priority areas for this work.

He said: “As part of an essential school repairs maintenance programme, the council is investing £196,000 to carry out the replacement of flat and pitched roofs at Pilmuir. The contractor is working closely with the school to maintain access during term time.”

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