Highfields Spencer Academy

Sector: Education
Status: Completed August 2020

Derbyshire has a population of around 780,000, which is expected to increase by 10% by 2039. The need to provide more infrastructure, housing and school places has been one of the County Council’s top priorities in recent years. With the addition of a new major housing development comprising of 1,200 homes, the council approached Morgan Sindall and Lungfish to support them in the delivery of a primary school to accommodate more than 200 pupils from the new, growing community.

The new Highfields Farm development in Littleover is being built by Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Homes and Miller Homes, with the £5.3million school project being part-funded through Section 106 agreements. Together with the council and the academy sponsor, Spencer Academies Trust, we have worked collaboratively to design a one form-entry primary school that will provide a high-quality and inspiring learning environment. Using our experience and expertise in offsite construction and modular design, we worked to develop a solution for the council that not only created a striking new school but enabled the project to be delivered efficiently within budget and tight timescales. Through comprehensive engagement meetings, the project was submitted to planning officials within six weeks of the first meeting.

Planning permission was granted in August 2019, and the school is due for completion in July 2020, ready for the September term.

About the project

As a one form-entry primary school, the new Highfields Spencer Academy will offer 210 pupil places and a 26-place nursery. The single-storey school will be of modular design and constructed offsite, allowing for the construction to run concurrently with the groundworks, shortening the project build. This approach will also benefit the local community, which is already experiencing a high volume of construction traffic, as the majority of construction will be offsite, keeping disruption to the site and surrounding areas to a minimum.

Spencer Academies Trust believe that children learn best when they are engaged in an exciting, creative and tailored curriculum. With that in mind, our design for the school boasts eight spacious classrooms, a landscape garden and a ‘habitat area’ for a biodiverse outdoor learning zone, allowing the pupils to engage and interact with the external environment, increasing their stimulation and creating the opportunity for them to gain practical hands-on learning.

Internally, the large classrooms will feature a modern and bright design throughout, creating positive and engaging learning environments. The building will provide an effective healthy indoor environment with natural daylighting and ventilation along with thermal comfort and acoustics which have been designed to support educational attainment. Outside, the school will have great sporting facilities with a hard play area, marked netball and basketball courts, and a large grass football pitch. The nursery and reception class entrances will have external canopies, as will the main entrance to provide weather protection and covered outdoor play.


As the school needs to be handed over in July 2020, allowing Spencer Academies Trust to move in ready for the September term, this gave the design and project teams only 17 months to design and deliver the new school. The tight timescale required the teams to move quickly and enter into a six-week engagement period with the council, in order to put the school plans and architectural drawings in for approval almost straight away. This is where offsite solutions come into their own. Having previously delivered schools within similar timeframes and utilising offsite solutions, we know that the building can pretty much be guaranteed to be delivered on time and to the highest quality, as the mitigating circumstances such as bad weather will not impact the project.

Excellent collaboration and regular, open communication with all stakeholders has been essential to gaining efficient planning permission, and the result will be a striking and colourful school.