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Work starts on new £20m 'learning community' in Bedford

The secondary, primary and nursery school will be run by two different trusts but built by the same contractor

Posted by Hannah Oakman | November 28, 2016 | Facilities & buildings

Construction work has started on the new Wixams Academy in Bedford, a £20m scheme which will cater for more than 1,200 students and pupils. There will be a secondary free school and a primary and nursery setting on the same site. The two schools will be separate establishments and as such will be run by two different trusts, but both buildings are being designed at the same time and will be built by one contractor simultaneously.

Lungfish Architects has created the schools in response to Bedford Borough Council’s need for more school places in the area which has arisen as a consequence of the new Wixams housing development continuing to grow.

The new Wixams Academy will eventually accommodate an intake of 500 11-17 year olds and 324 pupils aged 17 plus, along with 70 staff. The new primary school will cater for 420 pupils alongside 39 staff as well as a 26 place nursery.

Lungfish, which is part of Scape Group – the public sector owned built environment specialist – operates nationally and has already delivered previous education schemes in Bedford. Lead architect, Richard Daw, said this project was one of the biggest and most ambitious the practice had been appointed on to date.

It is extremely exciting to be part of the development of a whole new ‘educational community’ which will enhance the learning experience for many young people in Bedford - Richard Daw, Lead architect of Lungfish Architects

He said: “It is extremely exciting to be part of the development of a whole new ‘educational community’ which will enhance the learning experience for many young people in Bedford. 

“The original brief presented us with a unique set of challenges from day one which we’ve worked very closely with the client to meet,” he said.

Bedford Borough Council’s vision is to create a new learning community which will welcome children at the age of two to the nursery and educate them all the way through to the age of 18. Lungfish has been working closely with the local authority to enhance and achieve this vision.

Lungfish will work to a tight time frame to deliver the projects, as the new school places need to coincide with the construction of the new villages at Wixams. 

The schools are partially funded by the Education Funding Agency (EFA), designed to its facilities output specification (FOS) within its budget rates. The scheme was procured through the Scape Procure National Major Works framework whilst also accessing technical support via the Scape Procure National Project Management and Quantity Surveying framework.

Richard added: “From the start, we worked in collaboration with the planners and representatives from the local authority as well as the end user of the secondary school to ensure that there were as few conditions as possible attached to the planning application, so that the team could start work on site as soon as the project received planning permission.

“The academy’s specialism in technology has been at the heart of our design. This includes a multifaceted science department with a super-lab with large open plan spaces to maximise opportunities for learning. The overall design is also creatively linked to the EFA base model plan of the school layout that produces the best outcomes for children.

"We've designed a technology department to engage and inspire young people, encouraging them to use 2D and 3D physical and virtual technology to enhance their learning and design as well as develop their own projects. The technology specialism of the school will be represented along its façade to provide a visual advertisement of the school's key learning activities to the public.

As a practice, we pride ourselves on creating purposeful, elegant and sustainable buildings that involve and inspire the people who use them. The new Wixams Academy, primary school and nursery will be shining examples of this passion and flair - Richard Daw

“As a practice, we pride ourselves on creating purposeful, elegant and sustainable buildings that involve and inspire the people who use them. The new Wixams Academy, primary school and nursery will be shining examples of this passion and flair which we invest in everything we do and we can’t wait to see the impact the new buildings have on learning in the area.”

Fran Cox, senior project coordinator for Early Help, SEND and Capital Infrastructure at Bedford Borough Council said: “Bedford Borough was clear from the conception of the Wixams Schools project that they wanted Lungfish to lead the design for both schools. In the context of streamlined budgets, Lungfish are extremely skilled and experienced at ensuring the end product remains one of excellent quality.

“Within a very short timeframe their lead architect produced designs for both the primary school and the secondary school that not only worked within our budgets but also met all our requirements as client.

“As a client with a busy capital programme we chose to work with Lungfish not only because of their ability to design efficient solutions in short timescales, but because of their expertise and enthusiasm when working with our head teachers and local communities. Their attitude towards tricky issues is second to none and always one which is positive and solution focused.”

The schools will be accessed by a single road off Green Lane and each will have dedicated car parking facilities. The scheme is scheduled to be completed in December 2017.

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