Capital in Conversation with… end users and stakeholders
Free Schools Capital Programme
The FSC is a multibillion pound programme. The DfE’s further education schools team recently joined forces with the FSC, making them the first DfE team to deliver all the way through to post-16 to 19 education.
Katherine Warrington School is a 1,100 place, mainstream secondary school that includes 250 sixth form places. It is located on the edge of Harpenden in a designated green belt area, covering a vast 45-acres. The school was approved in 2015 and started work in January 2019. The early stages of the project were met with challenges. For instance, planning risk linked to the green belt and an Anglo Saxon graveyard being discovered, receiving objection from the local community which led to a full judicial review at the High Court. However, once resolved, planning and construction were underway. In September 2019, students moved into the sports hall as temporary accommodation which was successful in many ways. The ‘classrooms’ were illuminated by beautiful natural light through large windows and sound proof partitions from floor to ceiling. Finally in June 2020, the project was completed.
Positive feedback from students included the fact the drama studio is more modern with the theatrical lights adding value to lessons; the library is large and airy with natural lighting; outdoor courtyards are easily accessible for all; the horseshoe layout makes it easy to navigate; and the field is “a nice place to hang out with friends and admire the views”. Suggested improvements included incorporating a fence surrounding the field to stop balls getting lost during sports activities; direct access from changing rooms to the sports hall; and shorter rooms in the science block as the length of the room makes it difficult to hear the teacher at times.
School Rebuilding Programme
The SRP is responsible for rebuilding existing schools based on their condition, with a commitment to deliver 500 schools over the next decade. Prior to the SRP was the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) – this had two subprogrammes within it. The first focused on whole school rebuilds and major refurbishments; while the second focused on individual blocks.
In 2014, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary in Hertfordshire applied for PSPB2. In January 2020 work started and despite the pandemic, the school was delivered on budget four weeks early in January 2021. This was thanks to close collaboration between the school, the DfE and the main contractor. Being a Catholic school embodies a specific ethos that was crucial to carry through to the new build. To use the new design to reflect this ethos, the chapel area was developed to allow for larger assemblies. Also, religious statues from the original school were put in place which helped elicit the same feeling and culture, but in a more modern space.
Positive assets for this school include the fact it’s now over two storeys and has a lift for disabled people; large windows allow in more natural light; underfloor heating; and a vast playground with lots of new equipment. A problem in the old school was that to get to and from spaces, you had to travel through other classrooms. Now each of the classrooms are connected to the corridor using an L-shape layout which helps to resolve this problem, and makes teaching spaces quieter and less disruptive. Since opening, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School has been mentioned in The Sunday Times and rated by The Sunday Telegraph as one of the top 200 state primary schools in England.
Both the FSC and SRP provide the opportunity to increase design standards and play a significant role in improving teaching and learning for students. It is the feedback from end users and stakeholders that will help us continue to master the design of our future learning estates.