The Bishop's Stortford infant and nursery school was struck by tragedy when six-year-old pupil Kelly Bayford died in a house fire in 1993.
Thirteen months later the school was locked in a fight for survival as it celebrated its 40th birthday.
This week the school won a Government Charter Mark. It received a commendation last year but this time snatched the top award after impressing Government assessors on nine criteria which included standards, choice, courtesy, morality, value for money and "user satisfaction".
A special project called The Matrix helped to influence the assessors' decision.
In the aftermath of the Keep Havers Open campaign, staff had more time to think about learning. So headteacher Jenny Evans, deputy head and mathematics co-ordinator Margaret Payne, and their colleagues transformed an unused paved area with overgrown flowerbeds into an open-air mathematics playground.
The Matrix, which also beat 29 other school projects to win a Hertfordshire innovation award last month, shows how teachers, parents, businesses and the press can work together.
A parent built a fence and gate to make the area more secure; a bricked area for measuring water, and paving for learning about shapes were donated by local companies; parents donated unused bathroom tiles for a mapping mosaic and the playground was painted with mathematical games, such as snakes and ladders, by the community task force of the local Birchwood secondary school.
The school also received a Pounds 100 grant from the Bishop Stortford town mayor in recognition of the innovative project, Pounds 200 from the parents and friends association and Pounds 200 from The Construction Industry Training Board Curriculum Initiative because the children were learning about building.
Press reports of the Keep Havers Open campaign raised the profile of the school and made it easier to attract sponsorship.
An invaluable member of The Matrix team is Mick Brace, a co-opted governor, part-time classroom assistant, school handyman, lone parent and "houseperson" whose three children have been through The Havers. His current project is a table and chairs made out of 3D shapes.
The Matrix also includes a sundial, a shape sculpture, a magic square for algebra, sunflowers for measuring work, painted guttering marked in metric measurements, a map of the area, a round target game, and a triangular number pattern activity.
The mathematics playground is used by both the infants school and the 72-place nursery.
Margaret Payne said: "The children were involved at all stages of the work as part of their technology and mathematics work. They examined brick structures to see how bricks are laid and then used our bricks to try out what they had learned. The children enjoyed arranging, re-arranging and mapping where the different shaped paving stones should go. Some children mixed cement while others used spirit levels to prepare the ground for paving stones."