A DRAMATIC makeover hailed as a 'dream' has transformed a drab school courtyard.

'Bald' turf and crumbling concrete slabs have faded to memory at The Cherwell School in North Oxford, following a makeover of the south site's central garden.

The Key Stage 3 building now boasts an outdoor area with soft carpets of artificial grass, striking plants and sociable seating areas.

Speaking at an official opening ceremony on Wednesday, headteacher Chris Price remembered the first time teachers saw the changes.

He said: "It's hard to emphasise what a transformational moment it was.

"They felt positive that something amazing had happened and students fell in love with it straight away.

"It really symbolises what can be achieved.

"The people who have done the project have done so with real heart and a lot of passion."

The transformation took place over the summer holidays and was made possible by £35,000 raised by the school's parent teacher association (PTA), and a cash injection from the school itself.

Cherwell School teacher Steve Cappleman said the area was 'barren' prior to the work, and heralded Oxford-based garden business Hadingham Kirk for 'turning our dreams into reality'.

He said: "Members of staff [before] said it was like working in an industrial site.

"Grass was a problem – it was really bald in winter and turned to mud, which was traipsed through the corridors and affected other areas of the school.

"This was a joint approach from parents, students and all of us together. It's a real blueprint for the future."

Fiona Best, whose son is in Year 10 at the school off Marston Ferry Road, was among those who helped to design the garden.

The North Oxford parent said: "We wanted to change the space to encourage sociability and informality. We wanted to reflect the spirit of the school, which is quite free."

Outgoing chair of Cherwell's PTA, Mary Bowes, added: "So often schools are known for academic results. I want this school to be known as a place where they love and care.

"To have a space that makes people smile and where they can take a breath - that's what it's all about."

She said the PTA will raise money at its winter festival for a 'doughnut hut'; a covered area in the corner of the garden, where students can host events such as bake sales.

Lord Mayor of Oxford, Jean Fooks, who cut the ribbon to mark the garden's opening, said: "It's absolutely amazing to see the transformation and the wonderful influence it has on children.

"It's just stunning."

Bulbs will be planted in the coming weeks and there are longer-term plans to improve other areas of the site, including the front entrance.