Harrogate's most diverse school in historic link-up

Headteacher of Harrogate's most diverse school, Grove Road CP School, Chris Parkhouse with pupils.
Headteacher of Harrogate's most diverse school, Grove Road CP School, Chris Parkhouse with pupils.

Disadvantaged pupils at one of Harrogate’s most diverse schools are being granted incredible input into a potential multi-million pound new care home development at one of the town’s most historic buildings.

Grove Road Community Primary School’s headteacher Chris Parkhouse said the hope was that the pioneering collaboration at Grove House would mean, that as part of the potential development, the 328 pupils at the school would gain access to green spaces and outdoors lessons for the first time.

Inside Harrogate's stunning Grade II listed Grove House.

Inside Harrogate's stunning Grade II listed Grove House.

He said: “I believe the development plans will provide incredibly exciting, unique opportunities and experiences for our pupils in the very near future. “

So close is the relationship between youngsters at Grove Road CP School and the developers involved, award-winning Springfield Healthcare, that pupils have been able to contribute their own ideas to parts of the planning application to transform Grove House into high quality retirement apartments and a luxury care home for the elderly.

The school’s deputy head Jonathan Davies said: “We are one of the most diverse schools in North Yorkshire. Families make a beeline for our school because we see ourselves as a champion for disadvantaged children.

“Of our children, 37.5% have English as an additional language.

“This make up of children is unusual, as not only do we have a proportion of children that are from low income families/service children or who are adopted but also over a third of our pupils speak other languages as their first. To date, this stands at 26 different languages.

“For these children, having additional life opportunities is imperative and our school is committed in promoting and implementing this.

“The school currently has no access to grass or fields or, even, a garden. It’s impossivble to do any lessons involving the outdoors.

“In addition to that, because many of our pupils are disadvantaged, many do not have gardens or, even, grass to kick a ball.

“To get access for the first time to fields and gardens would be very special for our pupils.”

The links between Grove Road school and the Grade II listed Grove House, which had been the RAOB charity’s headquarters for the best part of a century until last year, run deeper than the fact they face each other across Skipton Road.

Both were largely the work of one of Harrogate’s greatest-ever mayors, the pioneering 19th century engineer Samson Fox who built the school and lived in the house.

Springfield Healthcare’s chief executive said the aim of the hoped-for new development was to repeat the success of its recent £7 million transformation of the art deco headquarters of Terry’s Chocolate into the award-winning Chocolate Works Care Village.

As well as preserving parts of Grove House’s historic features, Springfield Healthcare’s chief executive Graeme Lee is keen to open up the extensive grounds to the wider community.

To that end, the chief executive visited not only Grove Road Community Primary School for talks earlier this year in March but also its near neighbour Grove Academy.

The latter, part of Delta Academies Trust, is a smaller school designed to support older children who may struggle in the mainstream education environment.

It, too, is giving its support to a project which, if approved by Harrogate Borough Council’s planning commitee next month, could see the creation of a dementia gardens, with stimulating sensory points of interest, linked these with woodland walks and trails.

Graeme Lee said: “Grove House has stood as private entity for a long time, set apart and hidden from view to the majority of the Harrogate community.

“Our aim at Springfield is not only to provide excellent care in beautiful settings but to make a positive difference in the communities where we operate.

“The schools have already fed in to the landscape designs that have been submitted and continue to develop. “

Grove Road CP School’s headteacher believes the Grove House development would be a fitting tribute to Samson Fox’s role in the town’s history and his contribution to the community.

Chris Parkhouse said: “The history of Grove House and Grove Road Community Primary School are interlinked by our founder Samson Fox. .

“This development provides a wonderful opportunity, for the next chapter of that historical link.

“By creating woodland and outdoor education opportunities for our children, it will help them develop personal, social and technical skills, as well as promoting many positive interactions between pupils and residents.”

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