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Academy refurb opens up opportunities

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Fulston Manor is one of a new breed of academy trusts in the UK and was one of the first schools in Sittingbourne, Kent, to gain academy status, making the transition in October 2010 to the system which hands power back to educators.


The independent, state-funded school is now one of many in the area to make the transition and Fulston Manor is now recognised as a High Performing Business and Enterprise and Leading Edge Specialist School.

This focus on best practice, specialist expertise and high performance is an ethos which has been continued in the school’s recent expansion. Construction, infrastructure and design company Morgan Sindall delivered the new building for the school, replacing temporary classrooms with a newly built, highly-sustainable two storey facility.

The £3.2m project, which was designed by the Lee Evans Partnership, provides the school with 16 additional classrooms. The new building links seamlessly with the existing school as the project team added spacious classrooms and break out areas that merged with the existing facilities. Morgan Sindall also undertook the delivery of external hard landscaping and new parking facilities for staff and visitors.

Inspiring environment

Stephen Paine, Project Manager at Morgan Sindall, said: “Fulston Manor was a great project to be involved with and it’s very pleasing to see the building now occupied meeting the school’s needs. It is a highly sustainable new building that provides students and teachers with an exciting and inspiring learning environment. We established a strong relationship with the school from the outset, developing the customer charter and delivering upon our customer commitments. The construction was phased in order to minimise disruption to the school’s teaching curriculum, and close engagement and liaison with the school was required throughout all stages of the project. Overall the project has been a great success and myself and the team are delighted that the building has been so well received.

“Morgan Sindall has a reputation for delivering state of the art education projects that exemplify innovation in design and construction. Indeed, the development of education facilities is an important aspect of Morgan Sindall’s work. Projects like Fulston Manor, in conjunction with the customer and designers, allow for the revolution of the standard classroom into a space where design and learning go hand in hand. Long gone are the days when design and functionality were two entirely separate entities. Now the two serve each other, and in this case, the educational facility they are used in.”

Marrying functionality and design is something that has become more evident in the expansion and construction of schools in recent years, as evidenced in the new building at Fulston Manor. With educational design leaning more towards modern, well lit spaces that aid and enhance the learning experience, Fulston Manor’s extension exemplifies this ethos.

The new learning area includes large expanses of glass allowing natural light to pour into the learning and breakout areas which will, hopefully, aid learning through stimulation. This is also achieved through the bright colours used throughout the school. Purples and greens adorn the walls in the form of acoustic panels that add inspirational splashes of colour, while also suppressing noise – exemplifying the way in which modern educational facilities can manage the perfect fusion of design and usability.

On time, on budget

Alan Brookes, Headteacher at Fulston Manor School said of the project: “The building will make an enormous difference to the educational environment of so many students. As well as being hugely impressed by the design of the completed building, I would like to pay tribute to the contractors who not only completed on budget and on time, but did so with minimal disruption to the operation of the school. The sensitive manner in which the whole team operated within a school setting was exceptional and we are grateful for their professionalism and expertise.”

Design and practicality merge further as the building’s windows, floor and walls are all able to collect, store and distribute solar energy. During the winter months, the building will store solar energy as heat, which will then be redistributed throughout the building as an environmentally friendly way of heating the building.

During the summer, the building will reject solar heat gain, keeping the building cool and well ventilated. The building also has photovoltaic panels and is naturally ventilated, in line with its BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology) rating of Very Good. Education design now not only takes stock of the learning environment but also sustainability and, in turn, the natural environment. Fulston Manor now has environmental construction credentials in line with national standards.

The area also faces the common problem of oversubscription for school places. With a rising population and the demand for spaces in quality education facilities growing, the new building means increased permanent learning spaces for an increased intake of pupils in the September 2014 term. Therefore, the new building will benefit the local community, with more students able to attend the school and benefit from the enhanced learning facilities.

The project team, led by Morgan Sindall project manager, Stephen Paine, delivered the project while contending with the obstacles that come with working in a live school environment: “Working in a live school environment is one of the challenges that tends to come hand in hand with delivering education projects. Morgan Sindall has a wealth of experience in this area, which was put to good use on this project.”

Working on a live site, the Morgan Sindall project team erected hoardings to ensure that the building works were fully segregated from the school and that there was minimal disruption to the student’s learning environment. Deliveries were scheduled to ensure that they did not take place during the school’s pick up and drop off times. This meant that the school was able to remain fully operational throughout the construction of the new building.

Fulston Manor exemplifies increased focus on creating and delivering inspiring educational facilities that fuse design and practicality. This has allowed for the creation of facilities that provide a stimulating, exciting and inspiring learning and teaching environment for all school users.

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