Birkett House SEN School, Leicester
Cutting-edge approach for special educational needs school
Our team of education specialists constructed Birkett House SEN School as a special educational needs school offering places for 175 young people aged between 4 and 19.
The school itself is spread over four sites in the south of Leicester and our new facility is located on the site of Wigston Academy in Wigston, providing a new home that replaces a previous building at Launceston Road, Wigston.
It is specially designed for students with profound and multiple learning difficulties and features support facilities to the adjacent education campus, including a hydrotherapy pool, new tennis courts, sensory and interactive rooms and part refurbishment of the existing academy.
The school offers a seamless integration of learning, physiotherapy, care and medical needs, working closely with physiotherapists, occupational therapists and parents to provide a completely holistic experience.
Cutting edge through creative design
The school was designed around the idea of using sensory simplicity to impact positively on the comfort and behaviour of the pupils, who have a wide range of disabilities. The design has two contrasting courtyards to help the pupils identify where exactly in the building they are, and where they need to go. The school is divided by its functionality, with primary teaching spaces taking priority on the western side of the building, each with similar aspects and orientation.
Sue Horn, head teacher at Birkett House School said:
“We were engaged in all aspects of the planning and design. It’s really imaginative, as well as being effective, and has been warmly welcomed as an important part of school life. We are delighted with the experiences and opportunities it has already”
Built with the children’s needs in mind, there are three immersive rooms that feature state-of-the-art immersive technology, which perform fully interactive experiences for the pupils, including vibrating floors, aromas, wind, sound and visuals on multiple surfaces all stitched together. There is an immersive rebound room, featuring a sunken trampoline, ball pit climbing frame, swings, ramps and padded floors and walls – all with changeable mood lighting – as well as an adventure playroom.
Furthermore the building's unique design incorporated ‘Learning with Water’, an educational and sustainable drainage system. This provides a safe, accessible outdoor educational facility for pupils at the same time as creating an effective drainage system for the new school. Wildflower grassland was incorporated into the scheme to improve biodiversity at the site and provide additional learning space.
Peter Owen, director at Willmott Dixon Midlands said:
“It was clear that for a successful project, everyone involved needed great understanding of the complexity of the unique teaching requirements and our team have excelled on this project with understanding the students and the teacher’s needs”
This new school, procured via Scape Procure, facilitated a collaborative approach from the very start of the scheme, between partners Willmott Dixon, A&G Architects, BSP Consulting and Leicestershire County Council.
Purpose beyond profit
Beyond the construction, the team volunteered on additional activities to improve the school and pupils’ wellbeing, such as providing days out for them, raising £6,000 for state-of-the-art immersive technologies for the school and transforming the neighbouring schools’ pond area.
Working with the WIRE project our team were also able to offer three work experience placements to ex-offenders, ultimately resulting in one being taken on in a full time role.
The project also achieved a Considerate Constructors score of 42, deemed ‘excellent’; something the team is very proud of. Highlights were noted on the diligence of our team to remove litter and graffiti from site boundaries.