Specialist school, The Avenue, on track for February 2022 completion

24 June 2021

Work is progressing at pace on The Avenue, a new school which will meet the growing demand for special school places by further improving provision for pupils with Autism and complex needs within the London Borough of Brent.

Sat on an extremely constrained site, the new inclusive learning environment has been designed by Pozzoni Architecture and will eventually cater for up to 104 pupils from the ages of 4 to 18.

The school is being constructed by Galliford Try Building Southern as part of a £50m contract to build five SEND schools in the South of England, three of which (including The Avenue) are in Greater London. Pozzoni Architecture has designed four of these five schools.

The team working on site anticipate the school will be ready for its planned completion date in February 2022.

While a number of challenges including high winds, logistical issues and coronavirus restrictions have threatened the project with potentially significant setbacks, the metal frame of the building, along with its metal decking, has recently been completed with the casting of concrete now underway across each of its three floors.

The Avenue’s total site area of approximately 2,577sqm would not accommodate the prescribed external sport and play facilities for the proposed number of pupils, so these facilities have been intelligently incorporated by Pozzoni through the use of roof terraces on the second and third floors of the building.

These will be multifunctional areas designed for socialising, group performances and outdoor learning and will be surfaced with soft materials, including rubber crumb safety surfacing and artificial grass.

The rest of the outdoor areas have been carefully designed to maximise available space, with the main playground also functioning as a drop-off and pick-up area for the 80% of pupils who will be expected to arrive by minibuses.

A habitat area has been designed that will be framed by trees with paths to an open seating area and growing space for outdoor learning. Grass and ornamental planting have been included in the designs, to provide sensory and therapeutic benefits.

Catherine Mulley, Director at Pozzoni and head of the practice’s education team, said:

“The Avenue is testament to how great things can come in small packages. Everyone involved in the project is working collaboratively to deliver a school that provides everything its pupils need - a safe, happy and secure learning environment where they can ‘love, learn and laugh’ together.

“We’re delighted that the building’s design has overcome the spatial limitations of the site through creative planning, including the multi-purpose outdoor terraces on the second and third floors.

“We’re confident that The Avenue will provide pupils with an ideal environment in which to reach their full potential; personally, socially, emotionally, and academically.”

Peter Hancock, Galliford Try’s Project Manager for The Avenue, said:

“We’re more than 20 weeks into this construction project and we’ve had a number of delays owing to logistical challenges, four stand-down days because of high winds, as well as the recent national lockdown which was announced as we were starting on site. Right now, we find ourselves only two days behind schedule and we expect to make this time up, which is quite remarkable given the circumstances we’ve faced.”

The design and structure of the school building itself has also been planned to meet the needs of age groups from nursey and reception up to sixth form. Early years classrooms have been placed on the ground floor with direct access to private and secure external play areas, while sixth form classrooms are on the top floor to give pupils a sense of progression through the school.

Students at The Avenue will require a highly-specialist learning environment in which to develop, with many experiencing increased sensory sensitivity and high levels of anxiety. They will work in class groups of around six, based on age, with a class teacher and four assistants per group.

The building’s circulation strategy is simple and efficient so that pupils can be supervised at all times due to high staffing levels, with staff bases evenly distributed around the building.

The main hall and dining areas have been located near the main entrance, to allow for ease of access at parents’ evenings, school events and during community use. An on-site community café and shop will not only integrate the school into its surrounding area, but also offer older pupils opportunities for work experience.