Education Secretary Ruth Kelly described a new Northampton school as a national model for the future with "world-class facilities" when she officially opened the BDP designed Caroline Chisholm School last week (17 March 2005).
The minister visited the school in Wootton Fields, which is the first state-run school in the country to educate pupils all the way from ages four to 18, to dedicate the new building.
Mrs Kelly said: "It is absolutely fantastic here. This school has world-class facilities…It starts at age four right though to 18, which is really innovative".
The Centre for Learning at Wooldale, Northampton is a visionary project intended to address County Council and Government objectives for inclusive education, a community hub and lifelong learning. It extends the facilities and use of the school as an asset for the community and is open outside school hours and at weekends. There is also a public library that pupils can use during the day and for homework.
The description 'extended' or 'lifelong' learning refers to schools opening up to the wider community, and was heralded by Mrs Kelly as the way forward for education. She said: "This school will act as a focus for the community which I would like to see every school in the country do. These extended schools, should be at the heart of the community with all the facilities for the use of pupils, parents and people who live around."
The greenfield site adjoins a large area of new residential development to the south of the city centre. The accommodation comprises a 50 place nursery, 210 place primary school, 1200 place secondary school and 260 place 6th form. There is a public learning resource centre, two cafés and extensive indoor and outdoor sports facilities.
BDP Project Architect Chris Lloyd said "From its inception the project had a high architectural aspiration, and CABE have followed the design development closely."BDP's design groups the various elements of the school in a clear architectural form which is strongly influenced by the site topography. Generous social spaces both internally and externally, good adjacencies and scope to respond to changing needs by the inherent flexibility of layout and building construction. Rooms and buildings are related to outside spaces, and the whole building articulates the site in a dynamic way.
Each part of the Learning Centre responds to user needs, with playfulness in the primary school and sophistication in the LRC. The whole campus provides a barrier-free environment, with special attention being paid to generous circulation areas and minimum number of doors. It is also designed to be safe, secure and easily managed with a strong sense of place".
BDP was selected for this £25m (£16m construction cost) school by Kajima Partnerships Limited to join their PFI consortium team in January 2002, and the following November were declared Preferred Bidder. Work commenced on site in May 2003 under the control of Kajima Construction, with completion in the latter part of 2004.
BDP was commissioned as architects, C&S and building services engineers, acoustic consultants and landscape architects.
BDP is involved in the design of six of the new DfES City Academies and also designed the Beehive School, one of the 11 Building Schools for the Future Exemplar Designs.
Caroline Chisholm School, is named after the Northampton-born farmer's daughter who founded schools in India and Australia,
CABE - Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment