Valley Road Community Primary School

“This magnificent building with its powerful, established ethos has proved something ‘absolutely extraordinary’.” (HMI David Moore, Nov 2004)

Valley Road Community Primary School is a new build Two Form Entry School located in the Hendon area of Sunderland in the North East of England commissioned to combine two existing dilapidated schools. The brief called for an inclusive design which would place the school at the heart of the local community. In addition to the main school, funding was also provided by Social Enterprise Sunderland (SES) which enabled a number of community facilities to also be included providing facilities such as a crèche, Young Parents Centre, flexible meeting rooms and a nursery.

The design of the school looked to create an uplifting environment in which to learn and develop with the focal point and catalyst for the design being the children themselves. Accessed via the ‘communal street’ and through a secure ‘hub’ the school is split into two wings. Accessed of a central naturally lit corridor each classroom has its own recessed seating and display area creating a sense of ownership for each class within the communal space. Once in the classroom the curved ceiling creates interest and movement reducing in height towards the small picture windows positioned to suit the child. Private toilets for each classroom again create ‘ownership’ promoting a sense of responsibility and also reducing issues with children leaving the classroom during lessons. Small private classrooms have also been created between main classrooms allowing for ‘one on one’ teaching for children with special educational needs (SEN).

The main structure was designed to be constructed in a modular form using a simple palette of materials. Externally large open play areas were created along with playing fields being established upon demolition of the original schools.