New school building completed on schedule

Published: 13 September 2021

The new Castleward Spencer Academy, by Morgan Siddall Construction

The new Castleward Spencer Academy

Morgan Sindall Construction has completed the £7.6 million Castleward Spencer Academy, a primary school in Derby city centre which will provide the area with vital additional school capacity.

After being appointed in June 2020, construction work started two months later and finished last month on schedule, with 315 pupils entering the classrooms from this September, as well as 39 nursery children.

The completion of the new school supports Derby City Council’s major £100 million housing-led regeneration of the Castleward area.

The main contractor was appointed by Derby City Council via SCAPE, one of the UK’s leading public sector procurement authorities. Through the SCAPE Construction framework, Morgan Sindall Construction and Lungfish Architects have facilitated the rapid design and construction of a multitude of successful education projects since it was launched in February 2018.

Designed by Lungfish Architects, the school project necessitated significant innovation and close collaboration during the pre-construction phase to ensure the constrained inner city brownfield carpark site, measuring just 5,200 sqm, was used to maximum effect.

As a result, the new school building, which is a combination of one and two-storey blocks, has innovative rooftop play areas with two-metre-high parapets to keep children safe. This approach to design allows for the school to achieve more outdoor recreational space than the site would have traditionally allowed; it also has a multi-purpose games facility for active play.

Inside the school, space has again been maximised with ground floor classrooms accessed from the main hall at its centre which has a full height lightwell to bring in natural light to the heart of the building. Folding and sliding doors in the main hall also offer flexible use of space which can be quickly changed for a variety of uses.

Rob Cant, SCAPE framework director at Morgan Sindall Construction, said:

Derby’s new Castleward Spencer Academy has been delivered through a truly collaborative approach with both Derby City Council and Lungfish Architects via SCAPE, and it had to be in order to deliver the project on time.

This close collaboration was required not only because of the restrictions on space that the site presented us with, but also because of the impact of working through the pandemic and multiple lockdowns. Any delay to the project would have put the city council’s wider regeneration in jeopardy which involves further significant schemes on adjacent sites.

We are very proud that we have finished the project to our usual high standards and on schedule and that is a testament to the excellent co-operation and understanding between all parties from start to finish.

Richard Fielding, area director at Morgan Sindall Construction, added:

Our relationship with the City Council and Lungfish is one that is open and honest and having that trust makes any hurdle surmountable. We were able to spot pinch points and other factors early and deal with them quickly.

This has been a hugely rewarding project for everyone involved firstly because of the challenges faced and secondly we know what it means to this part of the city, with many of those working on the project living locally. To have a superb high-quality facility such as this will help anchor further regeneration and give the area and its people a genuine boost.

Craig Taylor, director at Lungfish Architects explained:

The wealth of natural light at Castleward plays a pivotal role in helping the children feel more connected to the outside, and it is aided by the use of colours that emulate the feeling of nature and gives cognitive benefits. The ground floor will include a feature floor that creates the appearance of looking up into a tree canopy, and acoustic panels in the hall keep the space feeling as open and comfortable as possible whilst reducing sound reverberation.

Mark Robinson, group chief executive, SCAPE said:

Lungfish Architects, our in-house architectural practice, has a proven track record in creating inspiring learning environments and Castleward Spencer Academy is no exception. Despite the pandemic, through true collaboration between Derby City Council, Spencer Academies Trust and Morgan Sindall Construction, the school has been delivered on time and on budget. SCAPE is proud to have helped accelerate this project which will be a true asset to the local area, educating generations to come.

Cllr Evonne Williams, Derby City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Skills, said:

We are delighted to be welcoming the first pupils to our newest primary school at Castleward. Its state-of-the-art design features such as the flexible use of space, the innovative outdoor play area and the security of a sprinkler system offer a superb environment for learning.  The school will be vital in transforming the regeneration of an inner-city area into a thriving community.

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