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Exterior view of Highfields Spencer Academy in Derby

Highfields Spencer Academy

Highfields Spencer Academy is a fantastic and colourful learning environment for a brand-new housing community on the outskirts of Derby. Within weeks of being open, it has brought together the community and has become an important part of the neighbourhood. It is a key part of the County’s plan to meet its growing population and school places challenge. Despite the challenges of COVID-19 and the pressures of section 106 deadlines, the school delivered in just nine months, completing early, snag free and scoring 9/10 for customer satisfaction.

Key Stats

The project was delivered via the Scape Framework

Building was handed over a week early despite the logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic

The school was built using modular construction methods, with 45 modules built offsite

Early engagement with the Morgan Sindall Construction team meant the project was submitted to planning officials within six weeks of the first meeting

At a Glance

Client

Derbyshire County Council

Budget

£5.3 million

Timing

40 weeks

Location

Littleover, Derbyshire

Year

July 2020

Sector

Primary Education

Our approach

Using our experience and expertise in offsite construction and modular design, coupled with the speed of the Scape framework, we worked to develop a solution for the council that not only created a striking new school but enabled the project to be delivered efficiently within budget and tight timescales. Through comprehensive engagement meetings, the project was submitted to planning officials within six weeks of the first meeting.

As much of the work on the 45 pre-fabricated modules was carried out offsite, within subcontractor Eco Modular’s factory in Hull, it could be completed safely and efficiently, unaffected by the logistical COVID-19 challenges facing many construction sites around the country. The school’s external framework arrived with the windows and roof sections already in place, while M&E fittings were also completed within the factory, reducing subcontractor traffic to site.

Work which needed to be completed onsite was done in line with government guidelines and all members of the supply chain worked collaboratively to ensure each other’s safety and wellbeing.

The result was a successful handover of keys which took place one week earlier than planned as well as being under-budget.

Planning permission was granted in August 2019, and the school was handed over one week early in August, ready for the first pupils in September 2020.

Enhancing communities

Derbyshire has a population of around 780,000, which is expected to increase by 10% by 2039. The need to provide more infrastructure, housing and school places has been one of the County Council’s top priorities in recent years. With the addition of a new major housing development comprising of 1,200 homes, the council approached Morgan Sindall Construction and Lungfish architects to support them in the delivery of a primary school to accommodate more than 200 pupils from the new, growing community. The new Highfields Farm development in Littleover is being built by Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Homes and Miller Homes, with the £5 million school project being part-funded through Section 106 agreements. Together with the council and the academy sponsor, Spencer Academies Trust, we have worked collaboratively to design a one form-entry primary school that will provide a high-quality and inspiring learning environment.

Highfields Farm is a new housing estate in the suburbs of Derby. With section 106 funding in place, the team were required to deliver a brand-new school in time for the occupation of a pre-agreed percentage of properties on the estate. However, with the housing developers growing from two to four on site, the percentage of house completions doubled, and therefore the speed of needing the school opened subsequently doubled.

Before COVID-19, the project team hosted numerous site visits to help pupils learn about construction and what the new school would look like. To keep this momentum, the team created a series of drone videos issued to surrounding schools and the community to keep everyone involved in the education of the build process. The project team also held a large event at the local job centre in partnership with Randstad to offer 30 people CSCS training and opportunities for employment. As a result, eight people secured employment from the initiative.

Highfields is a magic place already, the building is beautiful. The education design is so well considered and the space lends itself to be a really positive space for children. For me as a headteacher, the experience was really positive. It had a great team and they did everything possible to make sure I was involved. We want it to be somewhere the children love coming to every day and the best example of that was one of our pupils asking their parents to drive past the school on a Saturday because they were sad it wasn’t open at the weekends. We’re so proud of it here.
Anna Jones, Principal, Highfields Spencer Academy
The quality of the finish here is very high. The quality of the envelope is very good and I don’t see any difference from traditional to modular in the quality of environment it creates. That’s down to Morgan Sindall Construction’s management – Brian and his team picked up on every little detail and their attention to detail was second to none.. They even ran the programme through such a difficult time as well (building through lockdown) and everyone was surprised that it handed over a week early. They were just a very professional outfit, knowledgable and they knew what they were talking about.
Paul Cockayne, Principle Architect, Derbyshire County Council (now Concertus)

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