Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols formally opens and blesses the new St Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Bishop's Stortford
Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols blessed the new St Joseph's Catholic Primary School as its state-of-the-art building in Bishop's Stortford was officially opened.
The cardinal – who is also president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and therefore de facto spokesman of the Catholic Church in England – was joined by headteacher Peter Coldwell and chair of governors Suzanne Fitzgerald as he unveiled a commemorative plaque.
The 76-year-old dignitary – who was appointed the 11th Archbishop of Westminster by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 – presided over a short service of prayer and reflection in the school playground, attended by pupils, staff and representatives of those instrumental in delivering the project.
Archbishop Nichols was given a guided tour of the new campus in Great Hadham Road before enjoying refreshments.
Vice-chair of governors Kieran McAuliffe said: "The school building has been designed with the children at its heart and is a triumph for all involved and has been given the seal of approval from children, parents and staff.
"The new building will ensure that present and future pupils will continue to live, love and learn in a caring Christian community."
The two-storey replacement school for 420 pupils was constructed alongside the existing buildings on the 4.45-acre (1.8-hectare) campus.
Work began at the start of 2020 and was completed ahead of schedule, so in January 2021 the old classrooms were demolished, heralding a new era for the school.
The project to increase St Joseph's capacity from a 1.5- to two-form-of-entry school – up from 45 to 60 pupils in each year, adding 105 places across the seven year groups – was funded by a Priority School Building Programme Phase 2 (PSBP2) grant from the Department for Education which finances "major rebuilding and refurbishment projects in those schools and sixth-form colleges in the very worst condition". Education authority Hertfordshire County Council approved capital funds of up to £1.48m.
St Joseph's was founded by Belgian religious order the Sisters of St Mary of Namur as a mixed school for elementary pupils in 1909 in what is now the music block at St Mary's Catholic School in Windhill, which the nuns also founded.
The school in Great Hadham Road was built in 1960, initially with three classrooms, then expansion to six in 1966 and further growth through the decades until the primary had capacity for more than 300 pupils.
Its new facilities include two classrooms per year group, a food technology room, sensory provision and the latest digital teaching equipment such as interactive screens and sound systems.