Bedford Greenacre Independent School
Rushmoor School and St Andrews School are partner educational organisations based in Bedford. Managed by the same Board of Governors, each school boasts a long history in providing a high-quality, independent education and have been working in partnership since September 2013 under the leadership of Mr Daniel, Principal.
Since the two schools have been working together, they have made great strides in their educational attainments and in their facilities. Their aspiration now is to build on their alliance and come together, relocating both schools to one site, within the same facility - under the new name of Bedford Greenacre Independent School.
Situated just 1.5 miles apart, Rushmoor School currently caters for 315 pupils, whilst St Andrews School educates 245 pupils from the age of 3 through to 18. The Body of Governors purchased a 40-acre greenfield site to the north west of Bedford, close to the existing Rushmoor School and approximately two miles from the St Andrew’s site.
Working collaboratively with both schools, their Governors and Dutch firm Pellikaan Construction, the new Bedford Greenacre Independent School is due to open in the academic year 2022/23 and will become home to a 680-place all through school, that includes 80 Sixth Form places, accommodating all pupils from both schools as well as an additional 120 pupils.
About the project
The governors’ vision is to provide a modern, purpose-built ‘diamond’ structure school, combining both schools on one site. A diamond structure school is where boys and girls are taught together until the age of 11, separately from 11 to 16 (in core subjects only), before coming back together again in Sixth Form. Diamond schools are able to retain many of the positive characteristics of small schools, while benefiting from the infrastructure and economies of scale of a larger school.
The location of the new school has been carefully considered. The site is currently agricultural, arable lane set out across two large fields on the outskirts of Bedford. Sloping in its central section with flatter land at the top and to the western side, the site has heavily influenced the way the school will be developed. In order to make the most of the expansive views across the Ouse valley, the school buildings will be positioned on the upper, flatter part of the site, together with staff car parking and sports pitches. A separate access, pupil and parent car park and drop-off point will be located at the lower end of the site.
Overall, the school will consist of a junior block, senior block, central specialism block and a sports village. The orientation of these buildings will be positioned to ensure low impact upon neighbouring properties.
The design for the new school consists of one and two storey blocks, with a subterranean level at the centre of the building, offering fantastic views down the valley. Domestic in scale and sensitive to the surrounding rural setting, the building will be split into four main zones. The youngest pupils will be taught at one end of the building, growing through the school towards the Sixth Form and sports village at the North of the site. The landscaping scheme will be harmonious with the architecture and rural surroundings, drawing precedent on a ‘Forest School’ ethos and serving as an ecological connection to the neighbouring woodland.
Forest schools originated in Scandinavia and are based on the philosophy that education is formed on play and activity whilst creativity is nurtured through self-activity and investigation. Through an outdoor approach to learning, education and play in familiar surroundings and a ‘learner led’ approach and hands-on exploration, the children develop their self-esteem, confidence and independence. The concept has existed in the UK since the early nineties as a bolt on to the mainstream curriculum as well as a standalone resource.
The buildings have been designed to create an inspiring and progressive learning environment that boosts the values of a unique independent school.
At the heart of the school lies the atrium, designed to optimise the natural light, increase natural ventilation, and maximise the views. The outside world will be welcomed into the internal space.
The 40-acre site holds endless opportunities for sport and physical activity and encourages the school to achieve its forest school aim. The wide landscape boasts native species of planting and trees, supported by places to gather and learn, reinforce the campus vision to support an outdoor approach to education. The design of the school will follow the shape of the land, taking advantage of viewpoints.
The accommodation will be arranged in a cluster of self-contained year groups and faculty departments, allowing for the growth of a child from the age of 4 through to 18. Progressing from the junior block to the senior in an efficient familiar way, the blocks are functionally standardised, future proofing the accommodation and creating a sense of ownership. Whilst the Sixth Form is included within the larger heart space of the campus, providing an enterprise and professional approach for young adults, being close to the staff of the school.
Externally, great consideration has been given to the overall appearance of the school, paying interest to the lines of sight into and out of the site from the neighbouring residential settlement. The existing hedgerow successfully screens much of the site from eyelevel and will be enhanced with planting to ensure privacy is maintained and views are consistent and not negatively impacted for any residents overlooking the site.
The landscaping will be harmonious with the architectural setting whilst drawing precedent on the forest school ethos and serving as an ecological connection to the local landscape. Key features will reflect the different zones of the school. A variety of habitat areas, play areas and outdoor learning spaces will be included and create themed areas for age appropriate outdoor play, allowing the children to grow through the school.
Alongside the specialist and rural nature of the site, significant landscaping will be made to ensure that the external grounds and sporting needs of a 680-place school that holds excellent sporting credentials are met. With that in mind, a flat area will be set aside for the development grass pitches for rugby and football, a running track, a 3G sports pitch and multi-use games area (MUGA), all in accordance with Sport England requirements. An amphitheatre next to the outside dining space will allow for outside learning, supporting the school’s aspirations for a forest school approach.
Two carparks will provide 214 parking spaces and 12 accessible parking spaces. Parent and pupil access will be from the lower part of the site, with space available for bus parking and turning off the main highway, ensuring that school traffic will have a safe place to park away from the main highway and encourage parents to walk or cycle to school. From here, there will be a stepped pedestrian route up the hill, through the new school grounds to the school buildings. In addition, an accessible route will run through the contours of the site, up to the pupil entrances to the building. Visitors and staff access will be accommodated with an entrance at the top of the site, directly into the main school car park.