National contractor, Wates Construction, has begun work on a new £17m secondary school serving the local communities of Heywood, Middleton, Birch and Langley in Rochdale. The Edgar Wood Academy will be operated by the Altus Education Partnership (Altus), a multi academy trust.
The project was procured via the Department for Education’s (DfE’s) Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Framework and is the first of six MMC projects to hit site that Wates is undertaking since its appointment to the framework in January 2020.
Designed by architectural practice, Sheppard Robson, the 900-pupil school for 11 to 16-year-olds, which has a footprint of 6,720 sqm, is being developed in response to increased demand for secondary places following the expansion of local primary schools and will be ready for September 2022.
It will comprise a three-storey teaching block containing 23 general classrooms and 34 specialist classrooms, a sports hall, sports pitches, soft and hard play areas, car parking and drop off areas.
At the same time, Wates has worked closely with the DfE to develop temporary accommodation to house The Edgar Wood Academy’s first 120 Year 7 students when they arrive in September 2021. The accommodation will be located on a site about three miles away at Hopwood Hall College.
As Dave Saville, regional director of Wates Construction North West explains, there have been massive benefits of working through the MMC framework in terms of health and safety and pre-construction collaboration. He said: “We are using our Prism off-site manufacturing facility, which offers many advantages, including substantially reducing waste on site and lowering the carbon footprint of both our construction activities and the operational use of the buildings.
“Additionally, we have been moving forward on this project since August 2020 and have fostered a really strong collaborative relationship with complete integration of all the parties involved – the highways department, the local council, the DfE, our own team and Altus, who from the start, had a very clear idea about how they wanted the building to look.
“The contract was signed in early May 2021, and we were on site by mid-May 2021, which was only made possible because of the close working relationship we have established. We are also privileged and delighted to have been appointed through a separate tender to provide the temporary accommodation for the first pupils arriving in September and we are making timely progress.”
James Jones, partner, Sheppard Robson, has been working with the designated headteacher and his colleagues on the interior styling, which incorporates some additional features to reflect the work of the architect and draftsman, Edgar Wood, who practised in Manchester at the turn of the 20th century, was a leading player within the Arts and Crafts movement and whose name the school takes.
He said: “We looked at the sequence of spaces in the layout and took our lead from the work of Edgar Wood, asking how he would have done it. He was also a painter and some ideas from his landscape paintings have been introduced in the landscaped approach to the school, while patterns, influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement have been reproduced within the school’s branding and literature.”
Recognising the commitment of all parties to making the Edgar Wood Academy a reality, Marcin Kojder, headteacher designate, said: “As a headteacher, I have been incredibly fortunate to work with a team who will listen and provide expert and reasoned advice. Furthermore, Wates Construction have paid particular attention to the school’s vision and how the building can help to achieve it. As the school has developed, time has been set aside for additional meetings, just so that we can get the school exactly how we want it. I would like to thank everyone involved with the project for their enthusiasm and dedication towards creating a fantastic school for our children.”
John Milburn, Project Manager at the DfE, commented: “The approach of Wates Construction’s team during the CEM process was incredible. Weekly meetings, ad hoc meetings and issuing of plans and minutes were all done for the benefit of the scheme and in a very timely manner. As both the permanent scheme for September 2022 and temporary scheme for September 2021 reach site, we as the DfE have real confidence in Wates’ ability to deliver the schemes. There are some considerable works to undertake and some risks to manage but we are confident we have the right partner for delivery.”
Wates Construction has already made some strong community connections as part of its commitment to local spend and job creation, including supporting the supply chain. In partnership with Class of Your Own, its site team has also assisted with delivering the Design Engineer Construct programme to Hopwood Hall College students.
Meanwhile, Wates Construction is also close to completion of the 900-pupil Whitehaven Academy secondary school in Cumbria, in time for the start of the new school term in September and has recently handed over two schools in Cheshire – Hartford Church of England School in Northwich and Upton Primary School in Chester.