Phase one of a state-of-the art ‘super school’ in Penarth has been completed and handed over on the 16th October to the Vale of Glamorgan council, ready for an influx of 1,485 pupils next month.
The £48-million Penarth Learning Community, designed by HLM has been built on the site of St Cyres Secondary School and will see pupils from St Cyres with Erw’r Delyn, Ashgrove and Ysgol Maes Dyfan special schools coming together in a central learning hub, creating the largest learning facility in Wales.
This ambitious 23,500m2 scheme, which has been five years in the making, will see 205 special need pupils being taught in the same facility as 1,280 mainstream secondary school pupils, with the aim of delivering inclusive education and a wide range of learning opportunities under one roof.
Penarth Learning Community comprises a mainstream comprehensive school, together with a special educational needs (SEN) school, catering for pupils with a wide spectrum of learning needs including those with learning and physical difficulties and those on the autism spectrum. Together with a learning facility, there will also be a 1500 sq meter residential home, allowing 19 pupils to stay over at any one time to provide respite to their families.
As well as providing a first-class learning facility, Penarth Learning Community will also be available for use by the wider community, with the provision of modern sports facilities as well as hydrotherapy pools physiotherapy suites and other specialist areas that can be used by families and carers within the community looking after adults and children with special needs.
Gareth Woodfin, HLM associate & project architect, said: “The Penarth Learning Community is an exemplar project and we are extremely proud to have been involved in the architectural, landscape and interior design of this outstanding new learning environment for pupils in Penarth and the Vale.
“Our inclusive design creates a state-of-the-art Special Education and Secondary School with shared facilities, which will create multiple community opportunities for sports and performing arts as well as for adult learning. Adaptability was a key design driver to allow for future change in the curriculum and technology. We have worked hard to embed the new design into the community and reduce the visual impact of this large building by carefully landscaping the building to follow the contours of the ground. We were also conscious with the design of the residential building to create something that was distinctive in character from the other educational facilities, so that pupils really felt like they were ‘going home’ rather than staying at school for the night. The new school will be a beacon for sustainability with BREEAM Excellent and EPC A ratings, which will contribute to reducing energy use and long term costs to the Vale of Glamorgan. But more importantly the new school will foster learning and inclusivity, benefitting generations of children to come.”
HLM has carved out a niche for delivering design projects in the educational sector. In 2012, it was awarded the Gold Medal for Architecture at the National Eisteddfod for Wales for its design of Archbishop McGrath Catholic High School near Bridgend.