Cotton End Forest School

Lungfish have worked with us from the outset to realise our vision to design an unique forest school setting for our children. This will enable us to become a centre of excellence with the forest school ethos, where children are at the heart of their learning."

Karen Headland | Head Teacher - Cotton End Forest School

Local labour within 20 miles
Local spend within 20 miles
Apprentice places created

An inspiring forest school carving out a new approach to education.

Cotton End Primary School was squeezed into a small Victorian building. Needing to expand and increase its capacity, the school relocated to a new site on the edge of a community forest, which created the opportunity to carve out a new kind of inspiring learning environment.

Originating in Scandinavia, forest schools are based on the philosophy that education is formed on play and activity, whilst creativity is nurtured through self-activity and investigation. Cotton End Forest School is a flagship purpose built forest school that will provide 686 much-needed school places and inspire a generation to learn from the world around them.

Working closely with the school and council during a series of 12 collaborative engagement sessions, Lungfish Architects developed the concept of the forest school and designed an inspiring learning environment, both inside and out.

Through collaboration, they took the school on a hugely positive design journey, shaping the design of the building around their ideas. Together, they have created an inspirational and exciting environment where children can thrive and enjoy their learning.

With forest schools taking an outdoor approach to learning, the outside environment is as important, if not more so, than the inside.

The aim was to create a forest school with a village community of its own. Set within an extensive parkland setting, the relationship between the buildings and the landscape are exploited, encouraging the children to explore and interact with the outside environment during their day-to-day schooling.

The design includes a school campus of four teaching pavilions with a ‘forest gateway’ entrance building. also includes outdoor teaching canopies placed around the campus to provide shelter from the elements ensuring that outdoor activities can continue and be enjoyed, whatever the weather.

Cotton End Forest School is now a three form-entry primary school with a 60 place nursery. Classrooms open directly to the outside, offering pupils plenty of opportunity to mix classroom-based lessons with the outdoor spaces; a pond with a dipping platform, amphitheatre, meadows, forests, outdoor classroom pavilions, a market garden and market square.

Rainwater harvesting, surface water drainage swales, bug hotels, solar panels and recycling all help the children to learn about sustainability within their own environment and play an active part in achieving it.

A ‘forest gateway’ entrance building provides out-of-hours community facilities, and the inclusion of cutting-edge teacher training facilities will help the school to achieve landmark national support status.

In addition to this, through working inpartnership with the Marston Vale Forest Centre, the new school forms a strategic part of Bedford Borough Council’s long-term plan to reforest large swathes of Bedfordshire and, as such, will have tree coverage of 30% across the site.

Lungfish's design for Cotton End Forest School was a finalist for the London Construction Awards 2018 - Architectural Design of the Year. This award celebrates projects that have been designed in such a way that they are sympathetic to the environment and surroundings, functional for purpose and innovative in style.

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Major Works - England and Northern Ireland


Finalist | Architectural Design of the Year - London Construction Awards

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