The region’s strategic location between London and European markets, combined with its outstanding quality of life, is driving growth, with attractive rural towns and villages in close proximity to major urban hubs. It is also the home of Europe’s most continentally well-connected airport, London Stansted.
This location means that Essex is a critical port and gateway, with more than 130,000 businesses supporting over 1.3 million jobs across the region. Although this growth is testament to the region’s many strengths, providing the infrastructure to support a fast-growing population is not without its challenges.
New homes and schools are required to provide ongoing sustainable growth. Essex County Council is delivering an ambitious strategy to create the facilities needed to support these vibrant new communities.
New school places are particularly in demand, and the council is meeting this growing need with a record investment in new school places. This major development pipeline will see 22,000 new school places over the next 10 years, delivered through new-build schools, permanent expansions and refurbishments accross the country.
Framework mechanisms are in place to support this vision, streamline the procurement process and ensure compliance and best quality. The majority of education projects were initially procured directly by the council through the SmarteEast Alliance framework. This has since been superseded by the £300m, four-year Essex Construction Framework (ECF), which has subsequently supported the procurement of tens of thousands of new school places.
Morgan Sindall, the construction and infrastructure company, is playing a key role in the delivery of Essex’s new generation of school places, having delivered over 1000 school places to date, with a further 1700 places due to be completed over the next two years.
Morgan Sindall’s construction teams have completed seven school projects since 2011. These new buildings offer modern and spacious classrooms with outstanding acoustics and natural lighting, allowing students and staff to work in first-class learning environments.
In Braintree, the company was appointed to rebuild the John Ray Infant School, which had suffered extensive fire damage. The £5.8m scheme was a finalist in the 2016 RICS East of England Awards, which showcases the most inspirational initiatives and developments in construction, and the school was delighted with its brand-new facility.
Morgan Sindall works closely with Essex County Council and consultants from an early stage in the design process. This early involvement can reap huge rewards for local authorities during procurement. Getting involved at pre-construction stage allows Morgan Sindall to develop highly-effective, collaborative relationships with the design team.
Essex County Council has also delivered record investment into the Special Educational Needs (SEN) school facilities available, in response to the growing number of young people in the county being diagnosed with autism.
As part of this investment, Morgan Sindall delivered the new state-of-the-art Glenwood SEN School in Benfleet, Essex. The £15m project can support 210 young people between the ages of three and 19 years old, transforming the provision that currently exists in the locality to meet the learning needs of children with SEN. Glenwood School was recently granted the ‘Community Benefit’ award at the RICS Awards 2018, East of England.
Morgan Sindall approached the development with specialist delivery partners to meet the needs of all the children and young people who attend the school. The facilities include; an in-floor trampoline room, a hydrotherapy pool, sensory and light rooms and spaces designed to meet the needs of those with sensory processing difficulties.
It also has an immersive room where the school simulates environments, meaning young people can become familiar with places that they might visit, such as an airport and even situations they could imagine such as being under the sea or in a rainforest.
Following the successful delivery of the new Glenwood School, Morgan Sindall has also been appointed to construct new boarding accommodation for 30 pupils. As well as providing a ‘home from home’ adjacent to the main school building, during their stay pupils are able to learn invaluable skills such as cookery.
Positive partnership working has been key to the successful delivery of the thousands of new school places the company has delivered to date. The connected supply chain ensures compliance and best practice, and a sustainable, skilled and well-equipped workforce is in place to deliver the best possible facilities for local communities.
Saul Humphrey, Managing Director of Morgan Sindall’s East region, says positive partnerships and a community-focused ethos is at the heart of Morgan Sindall’s approach to delivery – key when delivering a major group of projects which will have such a long-standing impact on communities across the wider region.
He said: “Our team is nearing the halfway point on this important journey to deliver the next generation of school places for Essex County Council, and it’s fantastic to see the legacy that has already been created and to be looking forward to building on that with the delivery of over 1700 school places planned over the next two years.
“Our teams are skilled at delivering outstanding education facilities, often in challenging conditions, and it’s a privilege to bring this experience to bear on these projects, which will have such a positive impact on both the existing community, but also on Essex’s position as an incredibly desirable location in which to live and work.
“Morgan Sindall’s approach puts positive relationships at the heart of our operations, and I think this has been the key to our success. We work closely with the client and consultants at each stage of a project to add value.
“It’s crucial that the benefits of this major investment in education infrastructure are felt across the region – for us, that means engaging with local communities, doing everything we can to procure locally, supporting suppliers based in Essex to strengthen the county’s economy.
“Projects of this nature also give us the opportunity to develop the next generation of construction professionals. We’re committed to working with local training providers, colleges and universities to ensure that young people living in the region are engaged through apprenticeships, work placements and training schemes across our sites.
“Essex County Council’s investment means that schools will be prepared for the next generation of pupils and can enrich their learning experience. We’re looking forward to continuing to deliver the very best facilities and play our part in giving every child the opportunity to reach their full potential.”
Cllr Ray Gooding, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “We have an excellent track record of investing in new school places and spent about £74m creating more than 2500 places ahead of September 2017.
“As a result, we were able to offer a record percentage of primary and secondary school pupils their parents’ preferred places for the latest academic year, which is an outstanding achievement in the current climate.
“Despite our successes, we recognise that the county is continuing to grow and a further 22,000 new school places will be needed over the next decade.
“We remain committed to ensuring Essex has the infrastructure it needs to grow and have outlined plans to spend a further £87m on mainstream school projects as part of our ambitious £300m budget proposals.”
Projects completed by Morgan Sindall under SmarteEast:
• Chafford Hundred Primary School, Thurrock – expansion and refurbishment, 30 new places delivered in 2012
• St James’ CofE Primary School, Colchester – expansion, 70 new places delivered in 2013
• Downs Primary School, Harlow – new-build teaching block and expansion, 210 new places delivered in 2015
• John Ray Infant and Junior Schools, Braintree – new-build infant school and expansion, 270 new places delivered in 2015
• Moulsham Infant and Junior Schools, Chelmsford – expansion and refurbishment, 270 new places delivered in 2015
• Staples Road Primary School, Loughton – expansion, 105 new places delivered in 2015
• Glenwood SEN School, Benfleet – new-build SEN school, 210 new places delivered in 2017 Total 1165 places
Projects currently being delivered by Morgan Sindall under the ECF:
• Magna Carta Primary School, Stansted Mountfitchet – new-build primary school, 210 new places, completion: July 2018
• Newhall Primary School, Harlow – new-build primary school, 420 new primary school places and 56 early years places, completion: August 2018
Projects currently being delivered by Morgan Sindall under the ECF:
• Home Farm Primary School, Colchester – expansion, 210 new places
• St Michael’s Primary School, Colchester – expansion and refurbishment, 210 new places
• Rydene Primary School, Basildon – expansion and refurbishment, 210 new places, planned completion: July 2019
• Warley Primary School, Brentwood – expansion and refurbishment, 210 new places, planned completion: July 2019
• Glenwood SEN School Boarding Accommodation, Benfleet – new build, 20 new places, planned completion: summer 2019
• Lexden Springs SEND, Colchester – new-build SEN school, 210 new places and 30-place boarding, planned completion: autumn 2019.