A new nursery and primary school in Southwark to support and give opportunity to pupils with severe learning difficulties and autism.
Cherry Garden is an OFSTED ‘Outstanding’ certified school for children with Special Education Needs (SEN) - specifically for pupils with a statement for Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The new school building, located on a larger site in Peckham where it is more centrally located in the the London Borough of Southwark, will allow an increase in capacity to 75 places, plus a 10 place nursery and 8 place satellite class.
The project is one of four primary school expansion projects delivered by Hawkins\Brown, as part of Southwark’s primary expansion programme.
The setting in which children learn has a significant impact on their performance and this is particularly true for children with special needs. With such a wide spectrum of need at Cherry Garden the challenge was to create a specialist multi-sensory environment to ensure the varied and changing needs of the children are met both now and in the future.
The existing school was known for its warm, positive and open atmosphere that promotes sharing within school and across the wider community; the new building was required to exemplify these core values.
“I wanted to say a big thank you for giving us such a wonderful building. The children have always been pretty happy but they are so much calmer in this building. They are really enjoying the space and visual clarity of the building. There is amazing natural light. The staff love the staff terrace. It’s just a beautiful building in so many ways.”
Teresa Neary, Headteacher
The big idea
Emerging from an extensive briefing process the design is driven to satisfy the important room adjacencies and to create a strong identity. Split into three elements expressing the three principle uses; community spaces, shared teaching spaces and the general classrooms, the building layout is clear and simple. It provides children the opportunity to extend their learning across all developmental areas: cognitive, communication, social and physical as well as ensuring there are opportunities for the children to be as independent as possible.
Pushing the building up to the northern boundary of the site, repairs the historical street pattern whilst providing a strong active street frontage. Locating the entrance on the most prominent corner of the site and highlighting it with a gold cladding enforces the school’s presence and identity.
The small detail
The shared specialist teaching spaces form a central double height hub marked by the colourful feature staircase. The cellular support spaces are located centrally, with all the classrooms positioned on the perimeter to make use of natural light and give direct access to the external play spaces. The classrooms are grouped by Key Stage and arranged in pairs which all have shared group rooms, specialist toilet facilities and dedicated mobility equipment storage.
The strong durable brick materiality and the rhythmic façade references the historic context of residential properties. The feature gold metal cladding highlights principle spaces such as the main entrance and hall whilst providing a distinct identity for the school. The form becomes more playful as it moves into the site to respond to the use and play spaces.