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.


Armed with a tin of yellow paint talented 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 Edmund Street school, in Newbold Moor, 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 at Cavendish Junior School into the Curiosity Cabin - a room inspired by literacy charity Grimm & Co, who produce workshops and out of school clubs for 7 to 11-year-olds. Based in a former apothecary in Rotherham town centre, the charity’s HQ – which is open to the public - features a giant beanstalk and magic-o-meter aimed at inspiring youngsters.

“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, who has worked at Cavendish Junior School – recently graded ‘Good’ by Ofsted inspectors - for just over two years.

“We decided to brighten up the school during the first lockdown. School remained open throughout but there weren’t as many children in. That’s when we decided to start decorating - and we’re almost there. 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.

“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. Staff saw what they had there and took inspiration to create something similar at Cavendish.

“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.”

Cavendish Junior School have a large school field across the road from the main site, which is used for sport and community events and, next to the field, are the school allotments where pupils can get close to nature and gain crucial life skills.

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

“Our school has a fantastic outdoor garden area but, in the winter months, there isn’t much that you can do other than prepare for spring and summer,” said Lee, who worked as a kitchen fitter and built coaches before becoming a caretaker in 2009.

“We decided to make bird boxes during the Cavendish College sessions, created using old pallets that local businesses donated to school, to teach the children about sustainability and protecting our environment.

“I strip down the pallets – they often have sharp edges and nails still in them – to make them safe for the children, and then they assemble them using glue before painting them. We discuss various habitats of garden animals, so the children are constantly learning.

“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.”

Lee’s efforts to brighten up Cavendish Junior School haven’t gone unnoticed by staff and parents.

Rebecca Freaston, interim head teacher at Cavendish Junior School, 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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