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UK's largest off-site free school project completes

Topping out ceremony to celebrate construction milestone for £44 million school campus

Posted by Stephanie Broad | July 20, 2016 | Facilities & buildings

A recent ceremony celebrated the topping out of the £44 million Riverside Campus – the UK’s largest free school and biggest ever off-site education project. 

The Portakabin Group is constructing the innovative three-school campus for the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham using a Yorkon off-site solution.

Topping out is a tradition in the construction industry to bestow good luck on the new building when a structure reaches its advanced stages. Portakabin has just craned the last of 387 modules into position on the Riverside site. To mark this important milestone in the project, a steel beam was signed by school children, construction workers and dignitaries, and will later be lifted and secured into the roof of the atrium. 

The occasion was also celebrated with the announcement of the winners of an art competition. Simon Ambler, Director of the Portakabin Group, presented four students with vouchers for art equipment and their stunning artwork will now be prepared for permanent display around the campus when the school opens. 

Simon Ambler said: “We have today reached another important milestone in this fantastic project. We are absolutely delighted with the progress since the ground breaking just a few months ago, which is a credit to everyone involved.  We are on target and looking forward to the completion of the primary and special educational needs schools in September, followed by the secondary school next year. This campus will provide an outstanding environment for children to flourish and enjoy their learning activities for many generations to come.” 

Councillor Evelyn Carpenter, Cabinet Member for Educational Attainment and School Improvement at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “New school places in areas where our youth population is growing is good news for the local community and the borough as a whole.

“I have been very impressed with the speed with which the project has progressed using an off-site solution, and in barely six months, we have gone from ground breaking at the campus to seeing the last modules craned into place.

“Young people will now benefit from an aspirational learning environment and inspirational teaching to ensure they are well educated and realise their dreams.”

Designed by Surface to Air, the 23,000sqm Riverside Campus will accommodate 2,645 children from 0-19 years, integrating provision for nursery, primary, special needs, secondary, and sixth form pupils. It will be operated by the multi-academy trust, Partnership Learning.                                                                                                 

The Portakabin Group is the main contractor for this pioneering educational project. The contract was procured and awarded by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham via the Council’s local education partnership, Thames Partnership for Learning.  It is funded by the Department for Education. 

The £44 million Riverside scheme is one of the largest education developments now under construction in the UK and will create much needed additional places for one of the fastest growing school-age populations in the country.

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