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Inspirational Schools

Chris Pugh

Senior Associate


Chris focuses on our work in the education sector, including both higher education and school projects, and covers the full design and construction process from client briefing through to production information and delivery. He has more than 15 years’ experience in practice and joined FaulknerBrowns with knowledge of sports, residential and commercial sectors as well as education. Chris is particularly skilled in ensuring a strong vision is maintained from concept design through to construction detail and realising stakeholder aspirations in a completed project.

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More than 25,000 children are learning in schools designed by our practice. We create inspirational environments which encourage students to learn, enquire and explore with confidence.

Our schools portfolio is diverse, featuring large secondary schools with extensive sport and shared community facilities, small primary schools in rural settings, and schools designed specifically for children with special educational needs. Our schools challenge established conventions and explore the fundamental nature of learning spaces.

Our ideas are forged through collaboration with educationalists, teachers and students, and inspired by visits to exemplars of best practice throughout the UK and Europe. Designs evolve through dialogue with stakeholders, utilising diagrams, drawings and models to communicate solutions that everyone can understand

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Pudsey Grangefield School is a learning environment designed from first principles: understanding the specific requirements of the staff and students, and then creating the spaces to support them. A shared vision has inspired a building which suits a varied pedagogy, acknowledges individual learning styles, and enables each student to thrive independently.

The school is loosely faculty based, where each faculty is designed around an ‘open’ learning space which promotes formal or informal teaching methods, and also provides pupils with an environment which supports independent study. Adjacent ‘enclosed’ spaces include ‘show and tell’ rooms for interactive lectures and student presentations.

Combined, these environments nurture independence, facilitate ownership of the learning experience, and equip students with the confidence and skills to become lifelong learners. We termed this the ‘learning loop’.

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Ashton Campus

The nature of our approach means that every school we design is different.

Ashton Campus involved the co-location of two secondary schools with a special school for students with moderate learning difficulties, a total of over 1,800 pupils on one site.

The size is the overriding factor in the solution. The design is a series of five ‘home bases’ to give each student a sense of ownership and belonging. Each ‘home base’ is owned by a different year group and becomes a mini-school with its own pastoral facilities. A connecting ‘internal street’ opens up to create shared social spaces and dining facilities.

The special school is arranged separately to the main academy with its own entrance and outdoor space, but is inclusively linked by a shared exhibition space. This gives the 100 pupils access to sports facilities that they would not otherwise have.

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The Government’s decision to cancel the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in 2010, and introduce the Priority School Building (PSB) programme in 2011, brought with it a new focus on cost efficiency and budget control.

We were successful in a competition to replace eight schools for the Borough of Telford and Wrekin, which began during the BSF programme but was cancelled shortly after in 2009. Some preliminary work had been done, and as a result high expectations had been set with head teachers and governors.

The challenge in 2012 - for the first ‘batched school’ programme to be delivered under the new PSBP funding regime - was to meet the existing expectations, but with much lower cost targets. Our approach was to design the most cost efficient building as possible - initially at a level well below budget - and then reinvest the savings in areas that would provide the greatest value in enhancing the learning experience.

We designed schools without corridors, where the areas in-between the teaching spaces became open learning areas. The identity of each school was defined by a social ‘heart-space’, typically a double or triple height volume flooded with natural light, colour and distinctive graphics.

This approach provided all the benefits of repetition and standardisation, with the flexibility to respond to the individual needs of each school.

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De Haagse Hogeschool and ROC Mondriaan School at Sportcampus Zuiderpark

Looking to the future, we continue to bring innovation to the education sector.

Through research visits to schools in Europe we are particularly excited to be working on a school in The Hague, the Netherlands. Here, our expertise in designing education spaces has combined with our knowledge of sport to provide a unique project where teaching, learning and sport come together under one roof.

Chris Pugh