The Challenge:

The challenge of understanding special needs requirements focused attention on design. A scheme had to be developed which considered location of teaching spaces, access to secure outdoor space, selection of design, acoustics and building fabric to ensure a calming atmosphere; and careful consideration of finishes, fixtures and fittings to ensure pupil safety and enhanced learning environments.

Due to the nature of the students’ disabilities a fleet of 40-50 taxis arriving and departing twice a day was a major logistics challenge which had to be built into the programme with space on site and a gateman to help manage a safe, orderly pupil transfer in line with the School’s safety management strategy.

Covid-19 arrived at the height of construction, compliance with CLC and Kier’s regularly updated Site Operating Procedures were strictly observed to ensure risks were mitigated.

The Solution:

To develop a design that enhanced the base specification whilst meeting Iffley’s established set of requirements, we appointed the services of an Educationalist who joined design team meetings. He conducted seven ‘days in the life of a child’ studies to develop proposals that reflected the needs of children with differing learning and or social, emotional and mental health difficulties. Changes to the base design included:

  • A connecting ‘calm down’ room in each classroom
  • The introduction of a third floor to house a student-run café and mock flat to improve life skills
  • A centralised ground-floor therapy room which amalgamated the library, medical inspection and therapy space

The new transport drop-off and pick-up routine was visually communicated to the staff and students using our tender animation video. Construction work/material deliveries stopped during this time and weekly meetings between the site team and the academy successfully manged the process with no incidents.

The Impact:

The project scored straight 10s in every section of the customer satisfaction review.

Corporate responsibility initiatives included a hoarding painting competition by the students which came runner-up in a Considerate Constructors competition, and welcoming school ambassadors on site to compile reports for their peers. With 90% of pupils diagnosed autistic and computer technology a popular communication tool, we hosted BIM workshops using virtual reality so students could familiarise themselves with their new spaces and learn about career opportunities. The team worked with therapy staff before handover on a programme to gradually introduce pupils wary of change to their new classrooms.

During phase 2 of the project the site manager went above and beyond his duties when on two occasions he managed to talk a confused and vulnerable student off the fragile roof of a neighbouring building. The head teacher was beyond grateful and the site manager won a Kier ‘Star’ award.

" Kier has a good understanding of our needs, including the specific requirements of children with special educational needs and disabilities. They have been very innovative, producing a traffic management plan which has been very successful…They are always happy to help, make time to meet and/or reply to any concerns we have…they are very approachable and have been great to work with. "
Tom Procter-Legg Head Teacher Iffley Academy

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