14 January 2021

Last month the Department for Education recognised our site team at Dixons Trinity Chapeltown Academy in Leeds with the prestigious ‘Going Above & Beyond in Covid-19’ award. Lianne Lawson explains what this award means to the team.

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Lianne and the site team at Dixons Trinity Chapeltown Academy, proudly handing the project over to the customer.

During the Spring our team in the North handed over the £21.6m Dixons Trinity Chapeltown Academy. Located in the Leeds suburb of Chapeltown, the school covers an area of 40,000 square metres and caters for 420 primary school pupils and 560 secondary school pupils.

Lianne explains “The school first opened in September 2017 in a temporary site, when it took on 30 reception pupils, but aims to be an all-through school by 2023. In 2018 the Department for Education has stated that an estimated 2,497 extra primary school places and 2,287 secondary school places are needed in Leeds by September 2021, consequently, being able to create nearly 1,000 extra school places through this new building was critical for the local community.

“We broke ground in February 2019 and the project had been very smooth before the pandemic hit the UK. We were contracted to finish on May 21 and on March 23, the day the UK went into it’s first lockdown, we were just two weeks from finishing the project, seven weeks ahead of schedule.

Reacting quickly to changes

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“While the project was nearly complete, there was still a lot of crucial activity required. Giving the Government’s drive for construction work to continue, we assessed our tasks and looked at how they could be delivered while abiding by the Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures.

“One of the main remaining tasks was the configuration of the Building Management System (BMS). Typically, this task is delivered onsite by commissioning engineers, however given the social distancing requirements we took a different approach. Much of the work was consequently delivered offsite through remote working, with one person from the team remaining onsite to troubleshoot. While the process took some getting used to, we have certainly learnt a new skill and when required, we are able to embed this remote configuration process into future projects.

“Further to the BMS, we had a series of snagging to carry out to ensure we left the building defect free for handover. As schools were required to close to non-key worker pupils until July at the earliest, we were able to renegotiate our handover date, using the larger timeframe we had available to space out works to enable social distancing.

Effective social distancing measures

“Whist we implemented one-way systems, sanitation points and other Covid-19 safety measures, one of the key things we benefitted from were that many of supply chain partners were family members living under the same roof. Where this was the case, we provided each bubble with its own colour of armband, so it was easy to identify safe working clusters.

“Given the number of school places the new building would create, it was essential we were able to hit our deadlines. If we hadn’t been able to continue construction, there would be hundreds of students without a school place come the start of the new academic year in September.

“Upon completion on May 1, the Academy moved its key worker pupils into the new building, following the handover. Students had been in temporary accommodation and as part of our contract, we were required to deconstruct these dwellings. To utilised the experience of the same removal firm that had delivered the same role at the recently constructed NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and the Humber, based at the Harrogate Convention Centre. Similarly to some of our other supply chain partners, this organisation worked in bubbles, and through the armband system, it allowed us to see who could move furniture together, as this often encroached the two metre spacing.”

Award-winning customer recognition

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Procured via the DfE framework, our works at Dixons Trinity Chapeltown Academy achieved both a 10/10 net promotor score at the halfway point and on completion. The customer also nominated the site team at the virtual DfE Capital Awards in the category ‘Going Above & Beyond in Covid-19’, which it duly won.

Put forward by Simon Knott, the Project Director for the Dixons Trinity Chapeltown Academy, the nomination cited:

‘Successful handover of the building to the Trust six weeks ahead of the contract completion date was testament to your efforts. This enabled the temporary accommodation to be removed off site earlier and ensured the complete scheme including external works was completed ahead of schedule whilst still operating in the national lockdown. This project has been a success story and the Trust are very happy with the school that has been delivered.’

Lianne explains “Winning this award was a complete shock as I had no idea we had been nominated! I am delighted our customer was pleased with the job we have delivered. We know how important the project was and we put our all into it.

“The pandemic has caused headaches to every industry and construction has been no expectation. However, it has provided the opportunity for problem solving and to look at new ways of working. For tasks such as commissioning the BMS, performing the operation remotely would have seemed unthinkable just a few years ago. However, with the advancements in technology for connectivity, we were able to succeed, while learning new skills for future success.“

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Through endeavor, problem-solving and use of technology, Lianne and the team at Dixons Trinity Chapeltown Academy were able to embed the Construction Leadership Council's Covid-19 Site Operating Procedures to work safely to hand the school over, creating vital school places for the 2020/21 academic year.