The votes have been counted and now three schools across our area are celebrating after winning a share of cash to improve their facilities.
The School Build Challenge was launched with construction ﬁrms Warings and Leadbitter.
Schools from across Portsmouth, Gosport, Fareham and Havant sent their entries in with their dreams for their school.
A panel of judges narrowed them down to a short list of 15.
We then handed the responsibility to you, the readers, to choose which school should win a prize of works to the value of £3,000, £2,000 or £1,000, by sending in tokens.
And Redwood Park School in Cosham has come out on top.
Redwood is a community special school. It wants to create a sensory garden.
Staff have secured some funding to lay a safe path, which is now in place.
They are slowly creating a rich, exciting, stimulating outdoor environment in response to the needs of their children.
Many of the children have complex impairments and will beneﬁt from exploring sights, smells, textures and sounds in a sensory garden with a range of multi-sensory learning experiences.
Ofﬁce manager Jo Derham says: ‘We’re totally delighted to have won. We’re really pleased.
‘The support shown by our school community and The News readers, we are thrilled with.
‘We’re especially pleased because the school council has been working hard on our plans for the outdoor area.
‘We’re going to get an adventure trail and new equipment.
‘To have the sensory garden is the icing on the cake.’
Ms Derham says a sensory garden is beneficial to the children.
‘It does help them immensely.
‘All of our pupils have a statement of special educational needs which means they all have a disability.
‘A lot of our pupils are autistic.
‘So to encourage them to go outside and use all of their five senses to explore their environment is important.
‘This will be somewhere calming and relaxing where they can sit.
‘It will make a big difference.
‘It will especially make a difference at lunchtimes. Some of the children like to run around.
‘But there are children who are a little less confident at playing and they like to go somewhere calm and relaxing.
‘Everybody is totally delighted.’
Ms Derham adds that she is hugely grateful to everyone in the community and beyond who has shown support to the school.
‘As a school the fundraising that you can do is great but the access to funds is extremely limited by the fact that we’re a school,’ she says.
‘We’re not a charity.
‘To have Leadbitter coming in and working with us and planning and building our sensory garden is amazing.
‘We’re overwhelmed and gobsmacked. It’s absolutely fantastic.
‘Words aren’t enough but I want to give an absolutely huge thank you for the support.
‘We work so hard to provide a curriculum that meets the needs of our children and what’s most important is the experimental stuff that goes outside the curriculum.
‘A massive thanks from everybody involved at the school.’
Bidbury Junior School in Havant finished in second place while Highbury Primary School in Cosham finished in third.
Mark Waldron, editor of The News, says: ‘This has been such a good opportunity for our local schools to benefit from some significant investment.
‘I’m delighted to see we have three worthy winners and wish them the best of luck with their future projects.
‘I want to thank all our readers for getting involved in the competition and showing support to our local schools.’
Dave Cook, regional director at Leadbitter says: ‘We’re delighted by the success of the School Build Challenge and the level of participation by local schools.
‘Community engagement is high priority to our company, especially in areas in which we work, so this project is very important to us.
‘Our team looks forward to working with the successful schools and reporting back when their projects are completed.’
YOUNGSTERS at Highbury Primary School in Cosham will be improving their outdoor facilities, especially their pond.
The Year 6 pupils want to leave behind a gift for all the other children, as they are about to leave.
Pupils Ryan Betts and Abby Cotterill wrote the letter with their proposal.
They want the money to redesign and alter their school pond area, as it has become overgrown and not well looked-after.
They want to provide a safe and welcoming environment for their animals and fish.
The school has chickens and guinea pigs which they care for too.
Jane James, Year 5/6 teacher, said everyone at the school was thrilled to come in third place and receive £1,000 worth of building works.
‘It’s great,’ she said.
‘We are really pleased.
‘The children wrote the letter in the first place so it’s a nice outcome for them.
‘We have got a pond and it needs work doing and needs to be nicer for the children.
‘It’s to improve our outdoor learning.
‘We are quite lucky to have a nice environment and we want to make the most of our learning outside.
‘We can use it in our science lessons and our theme lessons.
‘We do an environmental theme at certain points of the year.
‘The children are over the moon.
‘All the children are, but particularly the ones that wrote the letter.’
PUPILS at Bidbury Junior School will be using their £2,000 cash prize to create an outside learning and play space.
At the moment pupils at the Havant school are fortunate to have a grassy area but have nowhere that is sheltered and suitable for whole class groups to work in together.
Last year, the Young School Governors investigated growing a living willow structure.
They looked at designing, measuring, estimating, planting and weaving to create their structure.
But the project had to be shelved due to funding issues.
Now, staff, children and parents at the school are celebrating coming in second place in the School Build Challenge.
Lorraine Hansell, business manager at Bidbury Juniors, said this will go a long way to benefitting the school and helping the children to succeed.
‘We are absolutely delighted,’ she said.
‘We always hope we will get support with projects like this and the children and the parents have come up trumps.
‘We would like to say a big thank you to them for supporting the school.
‘It’s going to go towards an outdoor learning environment that will benefit the children.
‘In this weather the children love being outside but it’s very important to not be in the heat so an outdoor learning environment under the trees is fantastic.
‘The chair of governors saw this advertised and wrote the proposal for us.
‘So this was a joint effort with the governors as well.’