London Borough of Harrow

Sector: Education
Status: Completed February 2017

When the London Borough of Harrow needed to extend several of its primary schools as part of its School Expansion Programme, we were brought in by existing partner Willmott Dixon for our modular school building experience and transformative work on Bedford Borough Council’s Temporary Replacement Programme. Procured through Scape, we designed three very different schools as part of the £12 million programme, providing over 690 new school places and improving facilities and the internal environment for more than 2,126 pupils across the borough.

About the project

Welldon Park Infants needed a nursery expansion and refurbishment as well as a more inspiring learning environment school-wide. We turned a grey concrete building into a striking, modern school with a strong colour theme linking it to the surrounding landscape. The colour theme inspired the teachers, staff and students so much so that they embraced it across the whole school estate and began to change the existing buildings – inside and out – to match.

At Grimsdyke Primary, the brief was very different. Instead of a stand-out extension, they wanted something that fitted in seamlessly. We removed temporary buildings, created 12 new classrooms, matched the architectural style and resolved local residents’ concerns by creating new facilities that looked like they’d always been there.

Meanwhile, at Longfield Primary, we worked sensitively to help the school take ownership of their extension. We undertook extensive engagement with the school as their new classroom block essentially was laid on top of their existing playground so we had to be inventive in our method. Without the budget to extend in the existing London brick, we took an imaginative approach to the elevational treatment with contrasting cladding broken up by a large canopy for external play.  At every point we engaged with the teaching team and made them central to the decision-making process.

Our Approach

Whilst the three schools were part of Harrow’s overall School Expansion Programme, each one had its own needs and different ideas about what they wanted, so we focused on each school’s individual context. Subsequently we took all three schools on a similar collaborative journey, building fantastic relationships along the way.

We began by working closely with them to understand flows around their existing buildings and decide the most appropriate layout for their needs. We then created flexible, low-carbon, cost-effective designs that tied the old buildings into the new, maximising teaching space, natural light and ventilation. And at the same time, we created colour themes that revitalised the whole-school learning environment.

An Exceptional Outcome

As well as delivering brand new classrooms and refurbishing the original buildings, we consequentially improved the internal environment of each school by providing new kitchen facilities and dining rooms. We created new spaces for staff, medical inspection rooms and even moved the entrance for one of the schools to the new block as it was more fit for purpose than its predecessor.

But the biggest impact for the schools is that our designs, with their infinite detail, have helped change the whole mindset of the schools when it comes to their catering experience and building maintenance. The schools’ catering teams no longer have a convoluted journey to deliver food that was at risk of going cold to the pupils as our designs ensured direct access between kitchens and dining halls. Our extensions meant that food could now be cooked fresh on the premises, not only improving the children’s wellbeing but also that of the staff who care for them.