The Challenge:

The educational need for the school, assessed by the Department for Education (DfE), was based on an urgent requirement to meet increasing additional demand for secondary school places within the area. The new girls’ school would form the ‘sister’ school to the Ofsted Good school, Woolwich Polytechnic School for Boys as part of the Multi Academy Trust, PolyMAT.

Adjacent to the established boys’ school the new facilities would offer the community managed access to playing pitches, a new Sport England compliant four court sports hall and allow for the upgrade of the all-weather hockey pitches within the existing Boys School grounds.

This new school would be ‘academic and inclusive’. The ambition achieved was to create spaces where children want to learn and to provide an enriched education to children of all motivation and capability. The layout of the school would reflect an academic culture that is driven by communities of students.

The Solution:

One of the initial design tasks was a review of both the schedule of accommodation requirements and desired school adjacencies against this cultural ethos, whilst being mindful of minimising the overall building footprint on the green open site. By working in partnership with the DfE, challenges to programme and delivery were overcome.

The creation of a central heart space, a double-height volume of space, to be used as a dynamic communal area for both pupils and staff was key to the school’s cultural aspirations. Space to perform, share, promote and be together is a high priority for the school. Pupils are directed either through the building or around the outside perimeter of the Sports Hall toward the external courtyard area, from which several entrances lead directly into the primary building circulation routes.

The new school will be efficient to run and maintain and thus deliver respective savings in running and maintenance costs. This will be aligned with one of the core strategic objectives of creating a sustainable, innovative learning environment.

The Impact:

The girls’ school takes advantage of, not only the boys’ school’s successful reputation but also the pastoral, administration and educational structures already in place. The warm community feeling carries through to the girls’ school with the potential for facilities and staff, as well as ideas and structures, to be shared. Students who attend Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls will be made not just exam-ready, but ‘real-world-ready’.

It has been noted at the outset of this design proposal that the site as a Community Open Space currently presents a sense of openness across the current playing fields from Birchdene Drive. Kier has considered this visual amenity, with several design options discarded through the design development where this could not be retained to a high level.

With the chosen layout, we have created several benefits to the client by fostering a close link with the boys' school, maximising playing space, mitigating road noise impact, an inclusive and diverse courtyard area and for future expansion when required.

" The opening of Woolwich Polytechnic School for Girls is the culmination of many years of planning and hard work. The result is a fantastic building that will provide students with state-of-the-art facilities to maximise the education experience for all. We asked for an environmentally friendly building where students could learn both inside and outside the classroom and that is what Kier have delivered. It is hoped that this will become a local hub, where indoor and outdoor areas will serve the community of Thamesmead for many years to come. We are extremely proud of this building. "
Alexa Rendell Director of Business Woolwich Polytechnic Schools

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