North West

£4.2m St Austin’s Primary School opens doors to children

Bardsley Construction has completed the construction of a new primary school and nursery for St Austin’s Primary School on in St Helens, Merseyside. The £4.2m building opened its doors in May 2011 and has operated as a school ever since.

The build was to replace an existing school on the site. The previous school was made up of two buildings on the same site – a 1970s modular building and a 1930s build – both of which were of poor quality and suffered from significant unsuitability issues. In order to facilitate the new school, all the junior school children were decanted into the infant building and temporary accommodation was provided. The new school was developed on the footprint of the junior school.

The school was commissioned by the Archdiocese Schools Department, who were the client body and owner of the building, and funding came from two principal sources – the Primary Capital Programme and LCRap money.

The new St Austin’s Primary School is a single storey building with one entrance. It was built in two phases: the first phase was the new build and the second the landscaping of the area upon which the infant school had previously resided. One of the project’s aims was to improve the access, security and safety of the general site whilst providing much needed facilities for the children. As a result, a usable playing field was developed – a feature that the previous school did not have. The area is now fenced in, with the secure playing field solely for the school’s use.

Chris Williams works for the Archdiocese Schools Department and was the principal point of contact for the project. He said: “The school is on a slightly awkward site as it is a sloping sight with access issues: there was a single restricted narrow access point with no adequate alternative. In addition, St. Helens is a mining area and therefore there were issues that needed careful planning. Despite this, the project progressed well. It was a well run, safe site with no issues from a health and safety point of view. The contractors did a brilliant job in terms of interfacing with local residents, and I cannot recall a single complaint from residents during the construction process.”

The steel frame school is built to BREEAM ‘Very Good’ standard, and also meets the Building Bulletin 99 standards. It provides a high quality, flexible, adaptable space that is a huge upgrade from the former school. For example, there are folding partitions between various areas so the size, shape and function of rooms can be adapted depending on what the school requires on a day-to-day basis. The whole building can support ICT provision, and various facilities are available including an easily accessible community room that reflects the school’s focus on family and adult learning.

Chris Williams said: “We tried to factor in various design features throughout the building to make sure it is a specific building for St Austin’s rather than a standard ‘off-the-shelf’ design. We’ve used brickwork that fits in with the industrial image of St Helen’s and incorporated foundation stones from the existing schools. Throughout the project, we have endeavoured to tailor the design – shape, size and orientation – of the rooms in order to fit closely with how the Head teacher and her governing body want to deliver education for this particular community. It is a bespoke design, and a tailored solution for this particular school.”

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