The Challenge:

Constructing a brand-new academy, in the centre of a residential area, on a heavily contaminated site, in the middle of a global pandemic brought significant challenges to the team which they proactively and innovatively overcame.

Under the spot-light of a robust residents’ association, Kier’s site manager communicated and interacted with the neighbours at regular meetings and even contributed to their Facebook page, updating on programme progress, adjusted access routes, late working etc. which helped to maintain excellent relationships and avoid any potential disruption.

Aside from one week to put CLC and Kier Site Operating Procedures (SOP) and H&S guidelines in place, the site continued to operate throughout Covid-19. The team credited their subcontractors for making the extra effort to get materials, and for working out of sequence to keep the project moving.

The Solution:

Kier provided a best practice solution to environmental challenges arising from the discovery of contaminated previously imported soil on the site, which had to be remediated before land transfer to Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) and construction could begin.

Working with OCC, developer & landowner and our environmental team, Kier took control to manage the re-engineering of the compliant work. The contaminated soil was removed, and 18,000 cubic metres imported to bring site levels back up. This involved strictly controlled measures including inspections of replacement soil pre and post tipping; approvals of soil sources; and stringent controls for up to 50 lorries coming to site per day to ensure clear roads and access.

As an example of best practice, this was a cost-efficient way of remediation and managing logistics for such a large volume of imported soil, which avoided a prolonged delay to occupation of the academy construction site and completion of the project.

The Impact:

Kier worked with Oxfordshire City Council and the headteacher to ‘market’ the new academy to the surrounding residencies. This including shooting a promotional video ( and carrying out career fairs, open days and tours to promote the new school, also showing SEN pupils around and providing a mock-up classroom to use in the film.

Before the onset of Covid-19, Kier also arranged tours for neighbouring feeder schools. Fulfilling social value targets during the pandemic they arranged virtual work experience and tours for local colleges and donated materials for project work. The project created five apprenticeships and 3 full time jobs in the locality.

Innovative approaches to H&S during Covid-19 kept the scheme progressing and the site team won four safety awards including one for going above and beyond in the management of neighbourly relations. The customer satisfaction survey recorded straight 10s in every category with zero defects and an ecstatic headteacher.

" I have to say this is one of the best examples of a new school I have seen or been involved with… Exceptional is the word that comes to mind and the post-handover support has made such a difference. This was also confirmed by one of our educational consultants to the school who made exactly the same comments as above; he sees an awful lot of schools… so that’s a real compliment. We are absolutely delighted with the build and the experience provided by Kier. "
Adrian Cush Head Teacher Whitelands Academy

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