Stroud CoE primary school dedicates playground to memory of special man

Published: Monday January 8, 2024

Revd James Turk and WoodySt Matthew’s Church of England Primary School has officially opened its newly designed playground, thanks to a legacy left by Rob Woodward, a lifelong supporter of the school. Woody, Rob’s wife and a volunteer at the school, attended a special ceremony to open ‘Rob’s Playground’, along with staff and pupils, on 12 December 2023.

Woody has helped and supported St Matthew’s Primary School over many years and Rob, her husband and a former pupil of St Matthew’s, was a silent advocate.

Shelly Collins, Deputy Head, says, “Over the years, Woody and Rob have given so much to the pupils and staff that we believe their love has resonated in the walls, which we feel every day. Sadly Rob passed away in 2023, and through his kindness and generosity he wanted to give the children at St Matthew’s something special, for not only our current children but also the children of the future.”

The children and staff were joined by the Revd James Turk, Vicar of St Matthew’s Church, Cainscross, and Ali Spencer, Chair of Governors, where they congregated in ‘Rob’s Playground’ and Richard Lucas, Headteacher, and Mrs Collins shared words about Rob’s legacy. With the help of Will and Rupert (pupils and close family friends), Woody cut the ribbon before the schoolchildren enjoyed using the gift of their new playground.

James Turk says, “Both Rob and Woody played pivotal roles in the worship life of St Matthew’s Church. Rob, a former Churchwarden, had to step away from church due to his illness, and Woody, his devoted caregiver, contacted me when he sadly passed away in the spring of 2023. In the process of planning Rob’s funeral, I developed a close connection with Woody. Despite their challenges, Woody, with Rob’s unwavering support, remained an integral part of the St Matthew’s Primary School family. Her selfless dedication to the school is now immortalised in the generous donation that facilitated the creation of the new playground.

“I had the honour of being present for the dedication ceremony and the unveiling of the plaque that memorialises the playground in Rob’s name. We are profoundly grateful that this space will bring joy to countless generations of youngsters. What resonates most with me is the delightful sound of play and laughter emanating from the playground, audible even from my study at the vicarage. To me, these joyous sounds represent the most fitting legacy of all.”

View of the new playground at St Matthew's Primary School

Woody says, “I thought that the opening of the playground was wonderful. To share it with William and Rupert was so lovely as they really looked after us when Rob was ill. I am very proud that Rob and I can do this for the children at St Matthew’s and it was lovely to see the children playing on it.

“The school have treated this with such importance and made it feel really special. The Diocese of Gloucester should feel immensely proud of St Matthew’s School – the whole community came out and I couldn’t be happier at the legacy that we have created in Rob’s name.”

Mrs Collins, Deputy Head, says, “The school has been absolutely bowled over by Rob and Woody’s generosity. We have needed a new playground for so long and this is a fitting memorial. The children will enjoy playing on it for many years to come. This kind gift really shows us the meaning of Christmas and the importance of being part of the St Matthew’s community, extending that big St Matthew’s hug to all.”


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