This seems a good opportunity to record a little of the history of how the school started and the ongoing relationship between us and the chapel.
The story begins 32 years ago with a Christian community in Bishops Stortford led by Mark Hunter. As the number of children in this church grew, the parents began to consider seriously the possibility of educating these children themselves. Two of the newest members to the group were Emlyn Humphries and Sue Brodley, both fresh out of teacher training in their first job, teaching maths at The Herts and Essex High School. These two were the obvious (in fact the only) choice for the teachers in the proposed school and after a fair bit of prayer, they were keen to take this on. 1989 saw two important events. Sue and Emlyn were married and the decision to start the school was sealed. All that was needed now was a curriculum and some premises.
The curriculum was the easy bit as the timing nicely coincided with the introduction of the National Curriculum. The building was not so simple.
The little team commissioned to find a suitable building for a school spent several interesting but fruitless hours touring various sites around Essex.
In the end they set the children to pray and the following morning were passing a run-down Chapel site on the way through Takeley when Emlyn suggested they stop and take a look.
A noticeboard gave the contact details of the pastor and the next day the four found themselves in the sitting room of Pastor Pieter Kraay. For some 20 years Pieter with three elderly ladies had been meeting in the back room of the Chapel; the broken windows in the main hall often making it too cold to meet there.
The arrival of these strangers with talk of a school were for the pastor an answer to prayer and a confirmation that the little mission had been for a bigger purpose. There was no haggling over rent. Pieter would have gladly set it at 50p a year.
And so began a major building project. Walls came down, the mezzanine floor went up. Every Saturday the church gathered at the site to build, clean, and decorate. These were special times. In the group were plumbers, builders, carpenters, electrician and even someone with roofing experience. They were almost a full construction team. All that was missing was a plasterer. But with perfect timing, as the walls to the toilet block and kitchen are completed an Irish family arrives to join the church and the Dad, it just so happens, is a plasterer.
The school opened in September 1989 with 8 reception children in what is now the head’s office and the stage area; 5 infants in the main hall and 8 juniors plus 1 senior on the mezzanine.
The relationship with Pieter Kraay developed and he became a popular visitor, telling stories of his childhood growing up in Argentina.
Over the next few years work began on the Chapel and Stable Block and the school expanded into new areas. Meanwhile the membership of the Chapel increased a little so that by the time Pieter died at the ripe old age of 86 in 2006, there were people to carry the meeting on – and, crucially, to fight off the hungry church umbrella trust that was hoping to sell off the site for the benefit of other Congregational Churches in its care. The school owes a huge debt to Chapel members over the years who have born with patience the disturbance that a school in their meeting room brings and who have fought on our behalf for the continuance of the school when this was threatened.
Now the Chapel boasts 12 regular members and has become an Incorporated Charitable Organisation with its own board of trustees. We continue to enjoy a sense of mutual care between school and Chapel – something that is indeed worth celebrating.