We have a beautiful building and a lot of pride in it from all quarters. The students love it, the staff feel lucky to have it, and the parents love it too. The collaboration made the Academy a massive success; the quality is beautiful.
Paul Spyropoulos | Principal, Wixams Academy
A national flagship project part-funded by the ESFA offering 1,244 new school places to a new community.
Wixams Tree Primary School and Wixams Academy are two schools located on the outskirts of Bedford that together provide more than 1,200 school places for pupils from the age of two through to eighteen.
Located side-by-side, both schools were constructed at the same time and delivered through the National Major Works framework with Willmott Dixon. Feasibilities were conducted in January 2016 and both schools welcomed their first cohort of pupils in September 2017.
Bedford Borough Council’s local population has grown significantly in recent years, creating an unprecedented demand for housing, schools and community facilities.
When the development began for four brand new villages – The Wixams – the council and Bedford College Academy Trust (BCAT) approached Lungfish Architects to design two schools; a cutting-edge science and technology academy, and primary school with nursery facilities, to become the centrepiece for the new community.
The council’s vision was to create a learning community which would welcome children at the age of two to the nursery and educate them all the way through to the age of 18. Along with a contribution by the developer as part of a Section 106 agreement, the project was to be funded by Bedford Borough Council and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
In order to receive funding from the ESFA, the scheme had to meet stringent compliance measures to secure project funding. Few school builds achieve this, so it was a major milestone and allowed this national, £20m flagship project to go ahead.
The schools needed to be open in time for September 2017. With a tight programme schedule, Willmott Dixon, Pick Everard, Scape and Lungfish worked closely with the council’s planners and everyone involved to make this happen.
Collaboration with the planners and representatives from the local authority, as well as the new school's leadership teams, was vital to ensure there were as few conditions as possible attached to the planning application. This meant that the project teams could start on site as soon as the project received planning permission.
The two schools now form an integral part of the new learning community at the heart of the Wixams development. Wixams Academy offers 100 secondary school places per year, with a large 324-strong sixth form and Wixams Tree is a two-form entry primary school offering 420 school places with a 26-place nursery.
The school sponsors, BCAT, had a clear vision for the secondary school to become a centre of excellence for science and technology. With this in mind, Lungfish created a design to help the school excel in these areas. The design for the academy includes a science ‘super lab’, heavy practical workshop, high-tech workshop with 3D lathes, creative design studio and recording studio. A learning resource centre is located at the heart of the school, with extensive sports facilities and an entire second floor dedicated to the sixth form. Outside, a threshold piazza links local walkways, creating a safe, open space for the whole community.
The vision for the primary school was to provide its staff and pupils with a vibrant and exciting learning environment where all children feel happy and confident to achieve excellence in everything they do. To support the school in achieving this, the design included a wide central learning street with breakout areas and classrooms along either side. As well as a main assembly hall, the school has a studio hall for dance and other activities. Outside, the primary school boasts all-weather sports facilities and feature a threshold piazza connected to the community’s network of cycle paths and walkways.
As well as fulfilling demand for much needed school places, the project was a success due to the collaborative approach adopted by all the stakeholders involved. The shared a goal; to design a school to the Facilities Output specification and deliver it within the rates required by the ESFA was achieved. The scheme not only met these conditions, but delivered two brand-new schools within a very short programme, on time and on budget. The project was also the first ESFA funded school to be delivered outside of their own framework.
Lungfish have been integral to the whole process, providing guidance and support throughout the journey as well as having the patience and listening skills to fully understand the individual needs and expectations of the two schools. The resulting buildings have a unique interior, reflecting the design thoughts and ideas of the Principal of Wixams Academy, Paul Spyropoulos and Headteacher of Wixams Tree Primary, Mary Langley.
Project Manager - Bedford Borough Council
Total project value:
Local labour within 40 miles
Waste diverted from landfill
Major Works | England and Northern Ireland
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