Legacy project for learning disabled and neurodivergent children in Suffolk

Legacy project for learning disabled and neurodivergent children in Suffolk

Work on Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy’s state-of-the-art school playground is beginning to take shape.

The legacy project has been funded by Suffolk charity GeeWizz's ‘Ed Sheeran: Made in Suffolk Legacy Auction’, a raffle of an oil painting donated by acclaimed British artist Maggi Hambling CBE and generous donations by the Suffolk community.

It will help the Ipswich school, supported by Ormiston Academies Trust (OAT), create a unique playground which is engaging, inspirational and accessible to all its pupils.

Gina Long MBE, Founder of GeeWizz Charitable Trust, said: “This is the biggest project we have been involved with since starting our lovely small, very special charity.

“Thanks to our Ed Sheeran Made in Suffolk Legacy Auction and the incredible generosity of Ed, John and Imogen Sheeran, the three fully renovated themed playground areas at Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy has become a wonderful reality.

“The thought that the playgrounds will help enhance many students for years to come makes everything we do a GeeWizz so incredibly special and the legacy it will leave is priceless.

“We are indebted to so many people and companies for supporting us in the last very tough 18 months.”

Landscape and Playground Designer, Mia Witham, said: “Despite the many challenges over the last few months, the project has already made substantial progress and we cannot wait to complete the build and invite the children to explore all the new features.

The playground’s first water feature, which contains a pupil-controlled mirrored sphere, has been installed while the farm area is also near completion. Alongside this, the area’s new paths have been shaped and tarmac installed while a six-metre long, light and tactile tunnel is being constructed by James and Clare Taylor and their TMJ Interiors team.

The project is a major team effort involving primary contractor Pro-Scape, Guy Nicholls and Tru7 Group who have generously provided all plant and aggregate, along with specialist machinery throughout the summer.

Also involved are Steve Flory and his Hudson Group, who have worked continually to wrap panels on the playground equipment, and Richard Balls at Clarke’s of Walsham selling all the products they have provided at cost.

As the project moves into autumn, tree-planting to create a sensory woodland is due to take place, kindly donated by Barcham Trees, while the multi-use games area (MUGA) is due to be installed prior to the end of 2021.

Art Foundation students at Suffolk One, led by their tutor Emma Connolly, have been tasked with a live brief, creating sensory objects to go within the playground in addition to an intricate pebble mosaic.

Throughout the project, there has been a major focus on reusing as many materials as possible. Paving slabs, play equipment, fencing and coloured Perspex have all been re-purposed to keep the project as environmentally friendly as possible. Members of the OAT site staff also joined the fun through a volunteer day in August, where they painted some of this retained equipment.

Helen MacDougall, Principal of Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy, said: “Seeing the community come together to bring this wonderful project to life has been nothing short of inspiring, and it has been incredibly exciting to see the playground begin to take shape. We’re all extremely excited to see this project’s continued development.

“Thomas Wolsey Ormiston Academy has always sought to provide its pupils with the most engaging, supportive and exciting education possible, and this playground will go a huge way to ensuring we can deliver this for generations to come. As always, we would like to sincerely thank GeeWizz, Tru7 and everyone else who has been involved in supporting this project.

“This of course includes Pro-Scape, our primary contractors, who have been fantastic. Not just in their day-to-day work, but for the ways in which they have engaged with our pupils; taking the time to show them what they were doing, letting them ‘have a go’ at building themselves, and generally being extremely generous with their time.”