St Mark's CE VA Primary School

The project was to design a new larger building for St Mark’s First School in Swanage. The school was to be relocated to an existing middle school site and involved the demolition of much of the existing unsuitable accommodation, retention and extensive remodelling of the existing hall building, and two new teaching wings to accommodate growing pupil numbers.

The project was part of a county-wide reorganisation of the education system from a three-tier to a two-tier arrangement. As a result, St Mark’s First School would become a primary school requiring more space and facilities than their current building would allow.

An assessment of the existing middle school revealed that much of the teaching accommodation was unsuitable for primary age pupils. The decision was to retain the hall building and channel most of the budget into creating new, single-storey teaching accommodation.

Originally used for secondary education, the hall was larger than required. However, a careful remodelling of this space enabled us to fit much of the ancillary school accommodation in this volume whilst maintaining a generous hall for the school’s use. Removing A poorly designed caretaker’s flat connected to the hall allowed us to install large new windows to the end of the hall, flooding it with light and providing views onto the large playing field to the front.

A reception class was also accommodated within the retained space and a pre-school space which, although not a requirement of the brief, was on the school’s wish list owing to their close links with an existing pre-school.

For speed and ease of construction, the new teaching accommodation, comprising six classrooms with breakout spaces and shared toilets, was constructed in Cross Laminated Timber panels, fabricated off-site for rapid erection on site.

Given the beautiful country setting of the school, the class spaces were designed to maximise connections with the outside environment. All are dual aspects with large areas of glazing and have direct access to external teaching and play areas. Overhanging eaves and a large canopy provide shade and protection from the elements allowing their use all year round.

As a link between the new and old buildings, a central multi-use space was created, again with CLT construction, to serve as the main pupil entrance and a flexible assembly and library space.

The school was completed under budget and opened on time in September 2014.