Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

The Joseph Rowntree School, New Earswick, York, UK-England

Exemplary design categories: community use and involvement, flexible learning settings, furniture, special needs provision

How the facility meets the needs of education and communities:
The objective of the project was to inspire learning and to improve the quality of the learning environment by creating a versatile, convivial and inspiring space for learning in a rural setting. The site is composed of six two- and three-storey clusters. Each cluster contains teaching spaces and an area for socialising. Each cluster has its own identity, colour scheme and furniture, which can be moved around floorboxes providing power and data. This offers the potential for traditional style learning facing the teacher and whiteboard, or grouped table layouts with access power and data if required. Dado trunking around the walls (providing power and data) also allows furniture to be placed around the perimeter of each room.

The school entrance is a 3-storey space (“heart of the school”) linked to other clusters by a vibrant internal street. Rooflights filter the natural light down into the space as a cascade of coloured light. This dynamic volume connects internal and external learning and social spaces and gives full access to all clusters. In all clusters, staff and sixth form work rooms have been sited to allow stewardship and natural supervision. An elliptical “Demonstration Theatre” stands above the main entrance volume and projects through the curtain walling to the east. It gives shelter to social spaces below, beacon qualities for the school and serves as a focal point for the community.

Breakout areas within each cluster provide opportunities for extended teaching areas, in addition to areas for students to socialise outside of lesson time. Choice of furniture reflects the flexibility and function of each space, which includes low-level stools, coffee tables, diner-style seating, tables and chairs. Internal glazed screens in the majority of classrooms permit passive supervision of students by teaching staff either during lesson time or break time. The Street area is a particular focus, providing a light, dynamic and ICT rich space for students, staff and the community to experience at the heart of the school. The main dining area is situated within this area, providing an area for a large number of students to meet and eat together. Community users can also access to this area, for example to attend exhibitions and performances. Dining tables are a mix of larger and smaller diameter to allow students to eat in the size of group that they feel comfortable; a breakfast bar area also provides an area for students to avoid a larger group if they wish. All dining tables and chairs are loose furniture to allow them to be moved for displays, presentations, performances within this key space. One wall of this space is designed with a number of display screens that can be used to display information about the school, notices, videos and to offer a multi media system within this central area.

The school provides education to students with a range of educational needs within a school setting. Areas have thus been designed to provide behavioural support, with smaller quieter areas together with a separate teaching base and a support area for students with Austistic Spectrum Condition.

The underlying principles that guide the landscape design and external layout is the desire to provide a stimulating, attractive and safe environment for students, teachers and visitors to the school. The externals include external learning zones and special landscape features, which support key curriculum subjects. Subject specific outdoor teaching zones and dedicated areas for each school year are located in semi-circular areas at the end of each departmental cluster. They are to include garden areas and seating areas enclosed by hedges, screens and planting to create outdoor learning spaces and quiet areas where individuals and small groups can socialise and study, away from the main activity areas.

The clusters use a simple palette of robust and environmentally aware materials to complement the village locality. Mature trees adjacent to Haxby Road and the southern boundary are enhanced through the extended learning landscape that wraps around and between the learning clusters. Natural seating areas are created throughout using grassed mounding and radial installation. A kitchen garden supports learning and reflects an allotment concept which allows joint use for the school and community. The external terrace that incorporates an area of green roof provides a safe, sheltered, and elevated South facing area for a diverse range of teaching and learning.

The natural ventilation strategy combines night cooling, thermal mass and a ventilation route that exploits stack effect through each clusters’ atria regulates the internal environment. Heat gains are controlled by minimising west-facing facades, provision of solar shading to south, well considered ICT infrastructure and equipment and lighting linked to an enhanced building management system.

Involvement of users and the local community in the planning and design process:
Groups of students were involved in the early design stages and influenced the design of toilets, break out spaces, social areas and external learning. The community were invited to open evenings during the design to inform and to comment upon the design and express any concerns.

Activity Areas: There are 6 cluster areas with 8 classrooms in each cluster, Learning Resource centre, ICT area, hair and beauty and social care facilities and 6th form common room.

Project costs: GBP 29,000,000.00

Source: Submitted to OECD for "Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011" in 2010

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User perspectives (1)

“From a learning point of view, we wanted an environment which would enable and encourage teachers to use different methods, to collaborate, to use different size groups and to be innovative. The design has given us a building where, in addition to the traditional teaching spaces, there are many other environments that can be used. The circulation spaces, dining facilities, and indoor and outdoor social spaces have been designed to all be suitable for learning spaces. To facilitate this the building and its immediate envronment has 100% wireless coverage in addition to hard wiring in traditional classrooms for heavy use applications. The other thing we were conscious of was that nobody knows now what learning environments may be needed in the future. So it was important that the building had the flexibility to allow internal redesign (I saw new schools which had concrete internal classroom walls). The building is designed to meet fire regulations for these potential changes”
Mr Frank Dixon, Chair of Governors, The Joseph Rowntree School.

Images (5)

Drawings (3)

Ground Floor Plan (Registration required)
Credit: Bond Bryan Architects
Landscape Master Plan (Registration required)
Credit: Bond Bryan Architects
Ground Floor FF&E Plan (Registration required)
Credit: Bond Bryan Architects