London & South East

Academy reconstruction takes education to a new level

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A multi-million pound rebuilding project is underway at Francis Combe Academy, Watford in a project which will see a new academy rising from the footprint of the old campus, taking education to a new level.

Main Contractors for the scheme are Kier London, working with architect ACP and West Hertfordshire College, which is sponsoring the academy.

Kier erected a suite of temporary accommodation units for the academy’s 1,300 pupils, who are continuing to be taught on site throughout the ₤22m design & build project, due for hand over at the end of 2012.

The project has involved demolishing around 80 per cent of the original school in Horseshoe Lane, Garston, and rebuilding it on the existing footprint. The Kier team drew up a three-phase programme of demolition and rebuilding operations, to enable the academy to remain open throughout the two-and-a-half year programme.

The initial demolition programme was officially launched by a member of the academy teaching staff, Lorraine Wright, head of learning for performing arts and media, who won the chance to knock down the old main hall in a charity auction.

As well as sitting at the controls of an excavator and being shown how to operate its mechanical claw, Lorraine also took a swing inside the old school hall with a club hammer and a pick-axe.

She said afterwards: “I have had a love-hate relationship with the hall and its stage ever since I came here 10 years ago, as it doesn’t work quite as I would like it to for school performances. I had always joked about smashing it down and when the charity auction came up I grabbed the chance to make it a reality.”

The remainder of the old original school buildings (except the Sixth form block) was demolished in Summer 2011, to allow for the rest of the new academy to be built.

“As with all our education projects, a key goal has been to ensure students and staff can continue as normal,” said Kier project manager Peter Dixon. “We have made every effort to minimise noise or potential disruption through detailed planning and programming on this very busy site, which has tight restrictions on working space and storage.”

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