Bursley Academy - Case study

Giving more children access to quality education with school design expertise

We’ve helped Bursley Academy in Staffordshire to fund and build a much-needed extension, keeping quality primary school education on local families’ doorsteps and maintaining Bursley’s position as the area’s school of choice.

Bursley Academy is an extremely popular primary school in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. However, its categorisation as a one-and-a-half form-entry school meant it could only have 45 pupils in each year group, and a total of 315 pupils across all ages (including the nursery), leaving it unable to accommodate everyone who wanted to send their children there.

Despite Bursley’s popularity – its reception year was particularly over-subscribed – it didn’t qualify for funding from the Local Education Authority to extend its accommodation.

When Bursley decided in 2017 to expand to a two form-entry school (meaning it could now accommodate 60 pupils per year group), it turned to us as its partner for many years.

Headteacher Brian Wilkinson commissioned us to prepare a bid for Condition Improvement Funding (CIF) of nearly £2.4m from the government to provide a new classroom block and remodel the existing building.

We completed and submitted the applications for CIF funding and navigated the complex regulatory process on Bursley’s behalf. When the application was successful, Bursley appointed us as project managers, designers and quantity surveyors for the expansion project. We worked with the construction company, Fords of Blythe Bridge to deliver a cost-effective scheme that transformed the school.

Working alongside Bursley’s leadership team, our development officer analysed the existing space to determine the accommodation shortfall and prepare a project brief.

Our architect then drew up a master plan that exceeded the school’s expectations of what it could achieve with the CIF award and improved the flow of pupils through the entire school space. The master plan also addressed the school’s external spaces to make better and efficient use of the grounds, again aiming to enable pupils to move around easily and effectively.

The extensive building project was completed in several phases to minimise disruption to school life. First, we built a single-storey extension containing six classrooms, a library, toilets and general resource areas.

Next, we made internal alterations to create a new staff room, special needs facilities and toilets. Other works included a hall storeroom, office alterations and circulation enhancements. We also created extra staff parking and new hard-surface play areas.

Finally, we completely refurbished the existing nursery and reception rooms and toilets.

We included a risk register in the CIF bid, and we managed all foreseeable risks throughout the project. However, the Coronavirus pandemic was unforeseen and, as building work progressed during the crisis, the project was delayed by materials being supplied slowly and the building company’s employees being off sick.

We managed this slippage effectively and, after an Extension of Time certificate was agreed and issued, work was completed in time for the new premises to be occupied in early November 2020.

The project was successfully completed on budget, creating 685m² of additional accommodation and enabling Bursley to offer places to 15 more local children in each year group – a total of 105 extra places across all year groups.

We approached the project holistically to minimise the new build required and re-energise existing spaces. Good communications with the school and a carefully sequenced plan ensured that the development caused minimal disruption to children’s learning.

As an extremely popular school in the area, Bursley Academy has through this building project managed to maintain its position as the local school of choice and is also now better placed to compete with other expanding schools nearby.

For local families, there’s now enough space at their first-choice primary school and no need for their children to travel to get the good education that they deserve.

In the future, we’re looking to apply the learning from this project to other schools so that their pupils can also benefit from our experience and expertise in optimising school space. We’re preparing a suite of standard drawings for a timber-framed, modular school solution, which can be implemented by a design-and-construct contractor quickly and to a high standard.

To find out how we can help you to optimise your school space, contact us

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