Yurt for schoolkids

Reception students from St Ebbe’s Primary School in the centre of Oxford are to be taught and based in a yurt for their lessons until the end of the summer term.

The move – thought to be the first of its type in the country – has taken place as a result of the school’s need to upsize. From the next academic year, the school is aiming to cater for school years of up to 60 pupils, from their current 45. The pupils, aged between four and five, are to be taught in the yurt whilst their current classroom is upgraded and expanded over the summer.

The yurt, provided by Oxfordshire based company Dragon Hill Yurts, arrived at the school in Whitehouse Road and started accommodating pupils last week. The structure provides real flooring, and a direct point of entry onto the path.

In a comment to The Oxford Mail, the school’s headmistress, Susie Bagnall, said: “We were keen they (the pupils) had a temporary classroom with the ‘wow’ factor so it was regarded as an advantage rather than a disadvantage having to move out of their class”. As part of the experience, pupils will also be taught a lesson by a Mongolian teaching assistant, who has taught in a yurt herself.

As part of the school’s upgrade, the school’s existing ICT suite is to be converted into an additional classroom, as well as the Reception classroom’s expansion. Two new class rooms, as well as a staff room and extended hall are also due to be constructed as part of the school’s upgrade, which is projected to cost around £500,000. The cost of renting the yurt will amount to £2,000 out of this sum.

First year history student Georgie Salzedo, was enthused by the idea, commenting: ”I would gladly have my tutorials in a yurt!” She added that yurt-based teaching could ”bring the pupils closer to nature,” and help them “experience different education systems”.

The expansion of the Church of England aided primary school will largely be funded by the Diocese of Oxford with Oxfordshire County Council contributing the remainder. As a result of the development, due to be completed by Christmas this year, the number of St Ebbe’s pupils will be allowed to expand from around 300 to a maximum capacity of 420. St Ebbe’s already agreed to an intake of 60 reception pupils in 2012.

The St Ebbe’s expansion is part of an Oxfordshire wide drive to expand the number of school places for primary school children, with hundreds of extra places currently required, due to a spike in pupil numbers.