Thames Primary Academy - Phase 1
Thames Primary Academy is a large two form entry primary school located in the South Shore area of Blackpool. The school buildings comprise traditional Edwardian classroom accommodation arranged around an infant and junior hall, supplemented by a modern extension which accommodates a Children's Centre and the main school hall and dining room.
Due to the age of the school, education delivery has evolved considerably since it was built well over 100 years ago. In relatively recent times, the trend towards more flexible approaches to teaching involving smaller group work as opposed to a traditional classroom environment has made the Edwardian classroom accommodation increasingly unsuitable.
The Key Stage 2 areas of the school, including the Year 3 to Year 6 classrooms, junior hall and Key Stage 2 toilets were considered the highest priority due to their poor condition. Creative SPARC Architects were appointed to prepare an Academy Development Masterplan to address this and subsequently to design a scheme that would modernise this area of the school and make it a more suitable environment for modern education.
The existing classroom accommodation was undersized by modern standards for the 30 children per class that the school houses and the rooms felt dark and overcrowded. This was due to their low suspended ceilings installed in the 1980s, the amount of inefficient furniture required for teaching and the dated colours and finishes. The power and data wiring was also outdated and needed modernising, whilst the heating was still provided by the original antiquated cast iron radiators and pipework loops.
In addition to the issues with the classroom accommodation, the toilets were also in poor condition. The two separate sex toilet blocks were very isolated from the classrooms making access and supervision difficult, whilst their poor condition and dated finishes made them very unwelcoming for pupils.
Project Type: Commission
Client(s): Thames Primary Academy
Size: 820 sqm
Location: Blackpool, Lancashire, UK
Year: September 2014
To resolve the problem of the undersized classrooms it was obvious that it wouldn't be feasible to extend each classroom externally. Instead, the solution developed was to maximise the existing area within each room whilst improving the connection between the classrooms and central hall space. This would increase the usable space within each room and Key Stage 2 as a whole without altering the building footprint, making the scheme financially viable.
In-built 'teaching walls' were introduced into each classroom which combined all of the former classroom storage into one large unit and also contained an interactive whiteboard/projector and the teacher's desk space. These units were finished in a dry-wipe magnetic finish so that they could also act as a super-sized display board for the children's work and be an additional whiteboard teaching aid. This approach removed the need for other storage within the rooms and maximised the remaining floor area to be used for flexible teaching using mobile furniture.
The old suspended ceilings were removed and the ceiling height raised to expose the original timber roof trusses as a feature to act as a reminder of the history of the building. Three metre high double glazed partitions were also installed between the perimeter classrooms and the central hall space. This allowed for a much improved connection and visibilty between these spaces whilst providing acoustic separation and effectively transformed the existing hall into a large flexible break-out space. Loose furniture and equipment are used within the hall to allow the teachers and teaching assistants to constantly change the layout and arrangement of this space to suit the current activities.
An existing classroom, central to one end of the hall, was also opened up to become part of the main flexible hall space. This now houses a shared library and ICT learning hub, that again using flexible furniture and mobile equipment can be extended into the main hall space when required, further increasing the teaching options available.
The former dark and isolated separate sex toilets have been combined and opened-up to create one large open plan toilet facility. Separate sex, full height toilet cubicles ensure the children's privacy, whilst the unisex hand wash area which is open onto an adjacent access corridor allows ease of access and much improved supervision.
A continuous palette of muted tones and punchy feature colours has been used throughout the scheme to help identify the year groups, the use of each space and add a sense of fun. This combined with super-sized graphics and signage, modern furnishings and colourful manifestation gives the spaces a youthful, modern appearance.