First Wolves BSF Project Underway

14 September 2010

Work has begun on the first stage of the Tettenhall Learning Community in Wolverhampton.

The project, the first to begin under the Wolverhampton BSF programme, comprises the redevelopment of Kings C.E. Secondary School and the construction of a new Special Educational Needs (SEN) school – Tettenhall Wood School.

Designed by Capita Symonds, the redeveloped Secondary School, which will specialise in the visual arts and sports with science, will cater for 900 students aged 11-18. Faith-based, with an inclusive Christian ethos, the school will be co-located with Tettenhall Wood School, a 140-place special school for students aged 4-18 with Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC). Though the schools will essentially operate independently, they will share some facilities as well as renewable energy provision.

Set into an attractive residential area of to the west of Wolverhampton, with many areas of mature landscape and excellent views across attractive countryside to the south, there is much for the new Learning Community’s design to engage with - in contrast to the existing building accommodation of The King’s C.E School which effectively turns it back on the surrounding landscape.

The Secondary School’s design aims to express strongly its specialisms in visual arts, and sports with science; its Christian ethos; and its developed commitment to co-location. Each of the specialisms has a ground floor presence while the main entrance foyer is conceived as an art gallery and connected directly with art class spaces which give onto an external covered art terrace overlooking the ‘green heart’ of the school - a new garden space embracing an existing copse of trees.

New-build accommodation has been thoughtfully positioned to create a cohesive and logical school plan -essentially teaching accommodation has been planned to wrap around two sides of the ‘green heart’. By this arrangement of spaces, each of the four zones required by the school has a distinct and clear expression. The creative zone occupies the northern wing of the school encompassing the hall and sports areas, and addresses both Tettenhall Wood and the social centre of the school. The practical zone sits entirely on the ground floor of the retained three storey teaching wing and the refurbished newer accommodation to the south. The world zone is located on the first floor of the re-modelled three-storey teaching wing, with the work zone on the second floor. Since each of these zones is smaller than the zone below, the accommodation is pulled back, allowing each zone to have roof terrace for outdoor classroom spaces.

The existing performance hall is also to be refurbished to provide a high-quality auditorium with the removal of the stage and the installation of a series of sliding-folding doors allowing a wide range of performance configurations to be provided.

The Tettenhall Wood School, meanwhile, features designated spaces for Speech and Language therapists, educational psychologists and other professionals necessary to meet the needs of individual students and their families.

The commitment to co-location is expressed in various ways. First there is a direct link from one school to the other. From the main entrance of the Secondary School the heart space can directly be seen straight in front, with a covered external route between along a colonnaded walk to the north side of the new ‘green heart’ and under the gallery of the contemplation courtyard. This courtyard acts as a reflective space between the two schools, for use by either school or both together with co-location activities. For example, the Secondary School’s dance/drama space opens onto the courtyard allowing small scale performances to be undertaken with the audience sitting in the courtyard or observing from the gallery above.

Extended and community use has also been facilitated by the design approach. The layout of the Secondary School allows for convenient community access to the hall spaces, dining areas, sports facilities including the swimming pool and the lecture theatre. The layout of Tettenhall Wood also facilitates convenient community access to the therapy suite and to the hydrotherapy pool, water room and sensory integration rooms. The therapy suite can be accessed without entering the ground floor accommodation of the school. Public, privileged and private spaces had been sensibly arranged.

The design process for the Tettenhall Learning Community involved extensive consultation with the senior management team of each school, technical and educational advisors from Wolverhampton City Council, students, and teachers. These discussions were also supported by more formal evaluations, including very positive CABE reviews and DQI sessions.

The Wolverhampton BSF programme is a long-term programme of investment and change providing £370m of funding to transform education for secondary age students by providing 21st century learning environments that engage and inspire young people, their teachers and the wider community. It incorporates the modernisation of school buildings, facilities and ICT to support the development of world class teaching and community provision for every school in the city.

The Wolverhampton LEP, comprising Wolverhampton City Council, Building Schools for the Future Investments LLP (BSFI) and Carillion, is delivering the programme. As Carillion’s lead partner, Capita Symonds is providing full multidisciplinary services including architecture, M&E, civil and structural engineering, and landscape architecture.