Jamie Barrett looks at how a historic school in London was transformed to help address the increasing pressure on education provision in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, and considers some of the lessons learned from its project management.
Greenwich has one of the fastest-growing school-age populations in the UK. This project was required to help address the increasing pressure on education provision in the area.
The John Roan School is a secondary school, which dates back to 1677. It occupies two sites adjacent to Greenwich Park — the lower school was located at Westcombe Park and the original school, which was built in 1928 and is a neo-classical Grade II listed building, is at Maze Hill.
State-of-the-art teaching facilities and flexible, transformational and inspiring learning environments were required to take the school into the next century and expand places to 1,400 pupils including 350 for sixth form students.
Evolution 5 was appointed to provide project management and cost management services to redevelop the John Roan School sites through Greenwich Council’s strategic partnership arrangement with Babcock International.
The scheme was a complex, two-year new-build, refurbishment and extension programme. It has created spacious, well-lit buildings that offer high quality facilities for both vocational and academic learning.
Remodelling and extension
The listed building at Maze Hill was extensively and sensitively remodelled and extended to improve the classrooms and circulation areas, and to create new social, dining and learning spaces in one of the internal courtyards covered with an ETFE ‘floating pillow’ roof. A dedicated sixth form centre and ICT facilities have also been added.
Demolition and redevelopment
The building at Westcombe Park was completely demolished and replaced with a new purpose-built, three-storey 7,845m2 school for years 9, 10 and 11. Decant sports accommodation was also provided during the build programme. The finished campus now accommodates general classrooms, design and technology laboratories, and an entrance atrium with stepped seating to create a performance space linked to the main curriculum and sports wings.
There are multi-purpose and open-plan spaces for use as an open learning resource centre and breakout study areas, a winter garden, and drama and activities studios. A sports and amenity building doubles as a valuable community facility. An unused school building at Royal Hill was refurbished to provide an interim decant facility for John Roan year 10 and 11 students. On completion of the new school at Westcombe Park, the Royal Hill scheme was upgraded and converted for occupation by James Wolfe Primary School.
Complex and challenging project
The redevelopment of The John Roan School was highly complex and involved many challenges:
- Children could not be displaced and teaching had to remain uninterrupted throughout, despite working in a live school environment during each phase. This involved moving year groups around and noise levels were carefully managed. During exam periods, construction activity levels were halted and then accelerated to maintain programme.
- This was a multi-stakeholder project, which required continuous liaison and dialogue between different parties.
- Managing the design and installation of a lightweight, transparent ETFE roof at Maze Hill connected to the listed building on three sides involved multiple agreements, a high degree of consultation with different interested parties and a visit to another application of this structure to inform the project management of the process.
- All finishes had to be signed off by the school before design close. To achieve this samples of furniture, wall colours, fixtures and fittings were obtained and ‘mock’ classroom areas created to attain feedback and a high degree of engagement with teaching staff.
- School technology was constantly evolving, with initial designs incorporating projectors, which moved to interactive white boards and finally touch screens.
- The construction budget was constrained and various funding streams had to be managed.
- Consistent and regular communications are essential on a project of this scale and with so many stakeholders and in the context of having to manage constantly changing requirements from the school.
- Site walks throughout the construction process were very useful to inform everyone what was taking place and when. Evolution5 conducted monthly meetings with school governors and took senior management around the new buildings when it was safe to do so. These initiatives worked very well.
- The sample classrooms were invaluable in helping to obtain informed and constructive feedback on design detailing from teaching staff, whilst effectively managing the school’s expectations.
Andrew Carr, contracts manager at Royal Borough of Greenwich Council, says: “We were kept up-to-date at every stage and the project management of this highly complex school redevelopment was excellent. The approach to communication was really helpful and we could pinpoint the project’s progress precisely, at any point.
“The consultancy team was fast to respond to any challenges and engaged with us at every level. They were extremely thorough, identifying any issues and the most appropriate solution. They did a great job on this challenging scheme and we can’t think of any areas they could improve on.”
At the opening, Des Malone, headteacher of The John Roan School, said: “This is a landmark for The John Roan which opens our outstanding buildings fit for 21st Century learning. We are all immensely proud of our very special school.”