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"Inspiring" Chapel Green School named as eastern "Project of the Year"

12 June 2019

Norfolk’s newest complex needs school, Chapel Green in Old Buckenham, has been named as the East of England’s “Project of the Year” at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Awards.

The school, designed by NPS Property Consultants Ltd and built by Morgan Sindall was funded by Norfolk County Council along with a £3.9m Government grant.

The school building has received the award for demonstrating outstanding best practice and delivering significant benefits to its local area and wider economy. It was described as “inspiring and immersive” by the Chair of Judges.

Chapel Green school opened in January 2018 and provides education for pupils aged three to 19 with complex needs. The new school features a state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool, physiotherapy room, medical room and a sensory suite. Every classroom has a bespoke outdoor class area to meet therapeutic and development needs of the pupils. Outside, a multi-level play mound provides excitement and physical stimulation to foster communication and social interaction for all pupils.

Upstairs has a Life Skills flat which replicates ‘real life’ adult living accommodation to help prepare students for life after education and a common room designed by the pupils to teach independence and social skills.

Behind the scenes, there is passive ventilation, thermal mass and natural daylighting which help to provide exemplar teaching and learning spaces.

Speaking about the project, Chair of the judging panel for the RICS Awards, East of England, Jonathan Nelson, said: “It's been said that 'Buildings Learn', developing and adapting as society evolves. At Chapel Green School this could not be truer. From applying first principles, good practice and actively putting the students at the forefront of design, the outcome is an inspiring and immersive development.

“As the students develop and learn, so does the building, by offering staged and progressive learning surroundings. The building effortlessly links inside with out and cleverly connects familiarity and the less familiar in a sympathetic way."

James Montgomery, Head of Architecture for NPS Property Consultants Ltd, added:   “Chapel Green has been designed to meet the specific needs of its pupils and create a learning environment for their diverse needs, overcoming barriers to learning in the process. We have together successfully delivered a project which meets these aspirations. To be judged by our peers across the region as ‘Project of the Year’ is a fantastic achievement and the ultimate professional recognition of a job very well done.”

Cllr John Fisher, Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services said: “All of Norfolk’s children’s deserve a good education so they can reach their potential and make the most of their future.

“Norfolk has some of the best special schools in the country, as judged by Ofsted. Chapel Green is a fine example and we are proud of the part we have played in building this important school.

“When it comes to the future, we look forward to enabling more of Norfolk’s children to have access to the most appropriate specialist facilities for their learning needs, as we move forward with our ambitious £120m programme to transform special needs education in our county.”

Karin Heap Headteacher of Chapel Green School added: "We have now had 18 months to ‘test out’ the building and the extensive grounds. I can categorically say this learning environment is absolutely right. Our children have made huge steps since they moved to the new site and pupils that joined us since the move, have settled in very quickly. Everyone benefits from many new learning activities using these fabulous facilities and creative outdoor learning has become the norm across the school."

Terry Hickman-Smith, former Chair of Governors commented: "This wonderful new building marks the culmination of a strong collective effort over many years.  Every member of the school community, the pupils, the staff, the parents and the head teacher, has been heavily involved in preparing the innovative educational template which the Architects and the whole Design Team have translated into this highly effective working school.  The result is a testimony to the collaborative approach by Norfolk County Council, NPS, the school and the wider community.  However, special mention must be made of the ceaseless work, enthusiasm, foresight and leadership of the head teacher, Karin Heap who has helped to make the long-standing dream a magnificent reality."

The Chapel Green School project had initially been awarded the best project within the ‘design through innovation’ category, and as a direct result went forward to be judged alongside all other category winners to finally be selected as the East of England’s overall ‘Project of the Year 2019’.

The project now moves forward to compete in the Grand Final of the RICS Awards in London on 4 October 2019.

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