Sep 19, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

Offsite construction methods used to create a learning hub designed to inspire

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The Sunday Times’ International Baccalaureate school of 2014 has been working with offsite construction specialist, Actavo | Building Solutions, to create a sixth form study centre to meet the school’s need for a world-class facility.


Designed to inspire and motivate pupils, Actavo created the ‘IBarn’ – a brand-new, two-storey, sixth form hub created to improve pupil facilities and respond to rapid student growth.

Freeing vital space in the existing sixth form accommodation, the IBarn provides the ideal learning space for those preparing for university while also facilitating more flexible space for the school’s talented artists and musicians.

The ground floor of the new sixth form includes a cafe, collaborative learning areas and changing rooms, while the first floor comprises an ICT suite alongside two large spaces that can be used as classrooms, independent study, seminar areas or opened up for lectures and presentations.

As well as meeting the needs of the international curriculum, the new hub also puts the older, sixth form students at the heart of the school, giving the younger pupils role models to aspire too.

Onsite ground works commenced in December 2014 and included the demolition of changing rooms and the infill of a swimming pool. To meet the demand for pupil places quickly and efficiently, Tonbridge Grammar School in Deakin Leas, Tonbridge, gained access to its modular building in August 2015, just 26 weeks after onsite works commenced.

Matthew Goff, UK Operations Director at Actavo | Building Solutions, said: “Many schools are beginning to see beyond the old, pre-fabricated units of the 1960s and 1970s and, as a result, the popularity of modular is soaring in the education sector due to its speed, versatility and cost-effective nature.

“Actavo has completed many projects in the education sector and with each project, there are different requirements. Tonbridge Grammar School needed a world-class facility to teach in and prepare their students for university life.

“The competitive funding mechanisms and demand for school places at Tonbridge Grammar School also meant tight deadlines,” he added.

As part of the tender process, Actavo | Building Solutions developed a 3D animation to enable the school to visualise how the new facility would look once complete. It also demonstrated why Actavo’s offsite solution is superior to traditional build, in terms of speed of construction, without compromising budgets or quality.

“As one of the UK’s top performing international baccalaureate schools, it was imperative we had a sixth form study centre that met the needs of the internationally-minded curriculum. Actavo has helped us achieve this with the creation of the ‘IBarn’,” says Rosemary Joyce, Tonbridge Grammar School’s Head Teacher.

“Actavo has provided us with a sixth form facility that has the perfect balance between form and function. The contemporary feel of the ‘IBarn’ and the careful use of glass provides both students and teaching staff with an open, spacious and well-ventilated space which supports the focus on collaborative, independent and reflective learning that is a feature of our school.

“The study centre also provides the ideal learning space for those preparing for university and the refurbishment of the vacated classrooms has facilitated more flexible space for our talented musicians.

“As well as being architecturally attractive, our new modular facility is an aspirational space in which to both work and study. It proves that the cost-effective and speedy solution offsite construction offers in no way takes away from the quality of the final building,” says Rosemary.

Tonbridge Grammar School became a co-educational institution in 2002 and had Academy status. It teaches girls between the age of 11 and 16, with the sixth form open to both boys and girls. In 2014, it was voted the Sunday Times’ State Secondary School of the Year and International Baccalaureate School of the Year.

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