Jan 23, 2019 Last Updated 4:59 PM, Jan 22, 2019

Collaboration is key in building successful developments

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Designed by Lungfish and built by Wates Construction, the new Bluecoat Academy Primary in Nottingham showed that collaboration is key in building successful developments and meeting the school places challenge.


More than 2000 new schools must be built within the next four years to accommodate the rising number of primary and secondary pupils in England. Local authorities are expecting an additional 729,000 pupils in education by 2020 – a rise of 8.6% in primary school pupils and 12% in secondary school pupils in England alone. To tackle this increase, the equivalent of two new schools must be created each working day.

Since 2009, Nottingham City Council has invested an impressive sum of £41.9m to create more than 4000 additional primary school places in the council’s catchment area. This significant investment is being made to curb the school places issue in Nottingham and ensure as many children as possible are placed at their desired primary school, as well as future-proofing the schools for growing demand. As part of the major expansion plan, £5.7m was invested at Bluecoat Academy Primary, based in Bilborough, Nottingham to create an additional 446 primary and nursery pupil places. Designed by Lungfish – which is part of the public sector-owned built environment specialist Scape Group – for Nottingham City Council and Bluecoat Academies Trust, this was the first primary school in the trust’s portfolio.

The landmark project was brought to life by Wates Construction through the East Midlands Property Alliance (empa) framework, which is managed by Scape Group. empa aims to improve the procurement and delivery of construction projects and property maintenance for public sector bodies, saving time and money for them and, in turn, for council taxpayers.

Creating an inspiring learning space

Bluecoat has a rich history spanning more than 300 years; from its modest beginnings, the Bluecoat Academies Trust now supports more than 2300 pupils. With demand for pupil places increasing further, a new third site was required by the trust. The trust and council’s key objective was that the new building provided an inspiring environment in which to learn and also adhered to 21st century teaching methods.

Using the land of an old school site, the design brief was to create an inspiring, cost-effective learning environment, giving the children as much functional, flexible space as possible. Lungfish’s design harnessed natural light and ventilation to create bright, airy learning spaces that would be enjoyable to use and cost-effective to run. The design maximised floor space and balanced best practice with the school’s own specific vision and practical needs.

Lungfish and Wates Construction worked closely with the school, trust and council during the 41 weeks on site. At every stage, the goal was to deliver the highest-quality learning environment possible for the budget, using Education Funding Agency guidance to create a successful, efficient building. The result is an L-shaped school including 15 bright, airy classrooms, breakout areas, small group rooms, a hall, a playground and SEN suite of rooms, plus a 26-place nursery. The large hall, part funded by the local diocese, can also accommodate community and faith activities without disrupting the school day. Running right through the centre is a wide learning street, creating breakout areas, a library and play spaces. In addition to this, reception and nursery classes have external canopies so that children can enjoy outside learning and play in all weathers.

The new, state-of-the-art teaching facility is expected to fill its additional 420 school places and 26 nursery places by September 2017 and is a world away from its previous temporary accommodation.

Collaboration is key

Lungfish and Wates, through the empa framework, worked collaboratively to deliver tangible economic benefit and ensuring the plans for the development were aligned to the project vision. Regular update meetings with the council and school also allowed the costs and development to be fine-tuned to meet the specific needs of the client.

Lungfish and Wates’ collaborative working, efficient detailing and the use of BIM Level 2 as well as a fully coordinated 3D model, meant that the project started on site one month after the planning was granted.

Adopt a school

To ensure that the scheme and its project team left a lasting legacy, empa and Wates Construction launched its ‘Adopt a School’ programme at the school in September 2016 and the initiative is set to continue until autumn 2018. The school mentoring scheme will see Wates stage a series of work-based learning activities for pupils and invite students on guided tours of working construction sites to inspire the next generation and introduce them to the world of construction.

Sian Hampton, Executive Principal at Bluecoat Academies Trust, said: “I am delighted with the opportunities that this new building provides for all the children attending Bluecoat Primary. This allows us to continue our work of transforming the lives of the children in our care in a brand-new, purpose-built school building. This rich learning environment will facilitate outstanding learning delivered by our highly skilled and talented staff team.”

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