A memorial garden created in memory of a pupil has been officially opened during a primary school’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Daniel Rigley was eight years old when he passed away in 2021, after being diagnosed with leukaemia when he was 39 months old.

Pupils and staff at St Thomas’ Catholic Voluntary Academy, where Daniel was a pupil, raised over £6,000 to create the memorial eco-garden at the school in Church View, Ilkeston and funding from East Midlands Airport was also used.

The garden was officially opened by the Bishop of Nottingham, Patrick McKinney, as part of 50th anniversary celebrations at the school.

Pupils, staff, parents, the Diocese of Nottingham, the St Ralph Sherwin Catholic Multi Academy Trust all took part in the events, along with former staff and two ex-Headteachers.

The opening of the garden was followed by Mass, speeches and a special performance from pupils at the school.

Pupils spoke about their memories of Daniel.

Brooke said: “Although is life was short, he loved it. No matter what was happening, Daniel’s happy face kept everyone smiling. I remember when he had been off for ages, when he came back I remember seeing everyone’s faces in Year 6. They were so happy like all their worries just went away.”

Willow said: “Daniel was a lovely lad. I remember when Daniel and Ayden would have a competition to see how many students and teachers we could run over in his wheelchair. Daniel was always smiling and his smile is forever in our souls.”

Finlay said: “Daniel was kind and smart. We were always laughing, I’m sure Year 6 will agree. Everyone’s faces lit up when he was in school. Daniel always had the best games at break. Daniel, everyone misses you.”

Headteacher Michael Sellors said: Although we had a lot of rain on the day of the blessing of Daniel’s Garden, when the time arrived for the opening by Bishop Patrick we were blessed with sunshine. It was a very emotional occasion for his family, his friends and the staff who knew Daniel. This beautiful garden stands as a lovely memorial to Daniel- a much missed and loved pupil.”

Deputy Headteacher Andy Gotheridge said: It was a beautiful and fitting occasion to remember and celebrate Daniel and reflect on his time with us at school. We were privileged to be able to share this moment with his parents. This garden will serve as a poignant reminder of a fantastic pupil for many years to come.”