Educational Brief

DRAFT: Our broad objectives are:

  • To ensure that the educational, personal and social needs of the students, staff and community be met in a safe, secure, welcoming and inclusive environment;
  • To create an environment which is flexible and can embrace the use of new technologies and different learning styles;
  • To create a campus that is an exemplar of sustainable design, which can be used as a tool for teaching the principles of environmental conservation to students;
  • To ensure our new campus reflects all that works so well about our current one, that it supports our school ethos and yet it benefits from all that is best about emerging ideas for school design from around the world.

To do this we aim to:

  • Develop a high-quality design that inspires users to learn.
  • Provide students, teachers and the community ownership – individuals are able to identify with a ‘home’ whether this is by house or interest.
  • Provide an environment where we can celebrate learning and relationships within the community.
  • Reflect the internationalism of the Island School community.
  • Develop an environment where learning horizontally and vertically can occur – relationships are fostered between students themselves and students and staff.
  • Utilise a sustainable approach to design, construction and environmental servicing.
  • Make good use of the site, balancing the needs of the users and enhancing the school’s presence in the community.
  • Design and develop buildings and grounds that are welcoming to both the school and the community while providing adequate security.
  • Develop good organisation of spaces in plan and section, that are coherent, distinct and fully accessible to all.
  • Utilise internal spaces that are well-proportioned, fit for purpose and meet the needs of the curriculum.
  • Encourage flexible design that will allow for short-term changes of layout and use, and for long-term expansion or contraction.
  • Utilise well-designed external spaces offering a variety of different settings for leisure, learning and sport.


The design of our new school will …
● … embody the spirit and ethos of the school as we now know it;
● … be renowned across the world for its innovative and effective design;
● … not have the municipal and institutional feel of a traditional school;
● … be inviting to the local community and support community and out of hours use;
● … respond to and contribute positively to its locality;
● … foster a sense of place;
● … create positive internal and external spaces through the configuration of buildings:
● … be a pleasure to work, eat, learn, play, teach and socialise in. In every aspect it will support personal and communal well being;
● … support educational transformation;
● … be able to accommodate different organizational structures or pedagogies over time;
● … be able to make provision for future change if required;
● … provide day-to-day flexibility for different types of learning and teaching:
● … encourage social learning throughout the school and its grounds;
● … provide a range of spaces available for widely different group sizes;
● … help to minimise energy use and carbon emissions;
● … provide an environment with a comfortable temperature for learning throughout the year;
● … use emerging energy harvesting technologies that are appropriate and meaningful :
● … have an inbuilt strategy for continued reduction of energy use and CO2 emissions;
● … have imaginative ways of maximising daylight to create uplifting spaces;
● … have key spaces daylit for most of the year;
● … where possible, have spaces that are naturally ventilated;
● … have circulation and social areas that are inviting to students;
● … have an internal environment where students and staff feel valued and motivated;
● … have learning spaces that are well proportioned and pleasant;
● … use materials that contribute positively to the quality of the scheme;
● … will be durable and easy to maintain?
● … respond to the existing topography, climate and ecology of the site;
● … have provisions for outdoor learning;
● … provide opportunities for a wide range of physical activities;
● … integrate sports facilities into the overall landscape strategy.

House and home
● The house system is at the centre of what makes Island School what it is. Whilst it is much more than a collection of house rooms and offices, we want the new accommodation to have dedicated spaces for our guidance and student support work. In other words we need the new design to provide our house system with a ‘home’. This must include rooms for our Senior Heads and Heads of House, smaller rooms for student mentoring and student meetings and a central common area that can act as a focus for each house. Ideally there should be some form of threshold or gateway into each House that gives the sense of having arrived in a house area.

● These ‘House’ spaces should feel homely and should engender a sense of belonging. They should support high quality relationships and empathy through their informal and interactive spaces. These House common areas should provide adequate locker storage for each student, public means for communication and celebration of student achievement.

Sightlines and Transparency
● One thing that makes our current site support the school ethos and community spirit so well, is the largely uninterrupted internal sightlines that the configuration of three quadrangles affords. At any point around the campus you can look across to many other parts of the building. As you move around you are constantly aware of others, events that may be happening across the school site and are visible to others at the same time.

● We want the new site to have this same feature. Furthermore we want to extend this aspect, by providing more open views off the site in the new buildings. Ideally circulation routes and common areas around the school will alternate between being inward and outward looking. We want the new building to be “outward” as well as “inward’ looking. At the same time we want passersby to be able to see the movement and life of our school.

● Although high visibility , openness and transparency are the core aims here, we need to provide a variety of common spaces with different levels of privacy. The open sightlines of our existing external atria are singularly the defining feature of the school’s current design. They serve the needs of collaboration and community interaction on larger scales, but we need to provide smaller, more private “back areas” so that quieter, discrete and reflective group activities can be supported also. These would afford smaller group
interaction in quieter corners of the school site.

● Sightlines should extend from within each learning space outward across the campus and also from external places into each learning space. This not only increases levels of transparency and enables passive supervision, but also mitigates against eyestrain as students are able to view and focus away from their studies to distances beyond 50 metres. We are also committed to the idea that learning should be visible and celebrated at all times.

● Although the Borrett Road site would make this more difficult, we would like the new school design to be appreciated fully when users approach the campus. Whilst the access routes do not allow for distant views on the Borrett Road site, we want the new building to be distinct and engaging when viewed from off-site and for the overall design to be truly appreciated from its surroundings.

Common Areas and Breakout
● In the new Island School the common areas will be as important, if not more important than classrooms.
As such they must be welcoming, interesting and provide a variety of different shaped and furnished spaces. They should provide opportunities for more informal learning and ‘breakout’ during lessons. Some common areas will be outside and some will be inside. Whilst both will provide circulation routes, their prime function will be to leverage collaboration and more “informal learning”.

● At times it will be possible for more formal teaching areas to be opened up to more closely interlinked with common areas. In the new design there will be much less demarcation between formal teaching areas and common areas. A feature will be a series of so called ‘blended’ spaces where functions and identities of spaces overlap and coexist.

● Key common areas will accommodate different furniture and technologies in such a way that they can be used for specific teaching and learning activities. Certain common areas will be identified to have full multi-media resources and display.

● It will be key to plan the spaces with a view to how they may be used and furnished. This can not be left to chance. It will be important to work up a way of classifying different types of commons and to have preplanned what they might be like and what type of learning behaviours they aim to support. In the new school it will be essential to have a wide range of scale and shaped common areas which are furnished differently. As ever any emerging typology for common spaces must show due regard for the need for flexibility and adaptability. Whilst we have to ensure as much as we can that we support a wide range
of approaches to learning, we can not generate a strict ‘list’ or overprescribed approach that ultimately constrains our thinking.

Special Educational Needs (SEN)
ESF also wanted to explore the viability of providing an additional facility to be co-located with Island School to cater to students whose special educational needs require the most extensive teaching and learning adjustment level of 5 and 6 (ESF Levels of Adjustment). After consultation with curriculum specialists at ESF, it was envisioned that this Specialist SEN Resource Centre will enable Island School to offer access to all pupils by being setup to meet the needs of all abilities. The resources base will have place for 76 pupils:

  • 24 primary students with SLD / PMLD (3 classes)
  • 24 secondary students with SLD / PMLD (3 classes)
  • 12 post 16 students with SLD / PMLD
  • 16 secondary MLD students (formerly LSC students)

The intention is that these students will become an integral part of the school and school systems especially with regards to pastoral care. The high level of resourcing will ensure that there are special educators and therapists employed to meet their additional needs but holistically access to these services will be made available to all students.
The aspiration being to setup an inclusive environment of understanding, care and support leading to the ability of these youngsters to truly access the most appropriate and sustainable opportunities to normal life and success within the community. Special operational requirements are as listed below:

  • All rooms need to ensure they are disabled accessible and space is allocated within the disability ordinances.
  • Location of the centre to depend on lift access of the building.
  • A small administration office will be required to accommodate 1 office manager and 1 receptionist, a head
  • teacher office and 2 SMT (shared offices)
  • Medical room: a fully equipped nurse room with administrative capacity
  • Storage spaces for equipment, large walking frame and wheelchair etc.
  • Therapy office space: a large room with adjoining & consultation/work space/therapy work space for 2 SALTs + 1 assistant, 2 OTs + 1 assistant, 1 PT + 1 assistant (tracking hoist in PT treatment room)
  • Teaching office: a collective office for teachers to have space for preparation (PPA) and adjoining small conference/meeting room.
  • Toilets/shower rooms with tracking hoists for changing; adapted to the needs of the students
  • Teaching classes: 1 SLD class with tracking hoist (4 primary, 4 secondary); 2 LSC classes (16 students);
  • Separate specialist rooms: Hydrotherapy with tracking hoists, changing facilities with tracking hoists and audio/visual control provision; Light & Dark Sensory Rooms
  • Shared Facilities (careful thought to disability will need to be built in to these shared facilities e.g. work area with easier access to emergency switches etc): gymnasium, art room, music room (with soundproofing), kitchen/food technology facility with height adjustable work surfaces, DT room, canteen.

● We need the new school campus to support and develop the cherished sense of community and high quality human relationships enjoyed by all stakeholders in Island School.

● The building needs to have high levels of usability – the people that live in it everyday need to enjoy high levels of comfort. Aesthetically it needs to be attractive, comfortable and inspirational so that positive emotions are supported.

● We want the facilities to attract a high level of community use, for parents to feel welcome to stay and get involved in school life and for students to be able to stay on and use the facilities for a whole range of uses.

An Extended Community School
The new Island School should be designed in such a way as to facilitate the wider use of its facilities by the school’s immediate community. We would like sporting, conference and performing spaces (as well as other more generic spaces) to be open for community use. In this way we not only make optimal use of our new campus when the school is not in session, but we also become a hub for our community and a resource that is cherished by people that live in the vicinity.

Furthermore we wish to enrich the service learning part of our curriculum so that, as well as students going out into the community to serve others, we can develop ways in which we can serve the community within the school campus. We see this as enriching our students experiences and providing them opportunities to host events and services on site.

Ways in which this might manifest itself …

  • Community Theatre companies using our performance spaces for rehearsals and productions;
  • Sports Clubs hiring our sports facilities;
  • Sports / occupational therapists using our hydrotherapy pool that will hopefully be part of the SEN facility;
  • Senior Learning Complex used for meetings and conferences at the weekends;
  • Artists and designers working in residence in some of our specialist spaces on short term projects.
  • A shared library facility.

● Our school needs to promote and contribute to all users’ sense of well being in the widest interpretation of this term.

● The new design needs to have sustainability at its front and centre. It is all too easy to have a tokenistic approach and we need to avoid merely having a ‘green wall’ in the entrance hall and a few solar panels. We would like the sustainability features of the new campus design to be made very explicit so that the school itself can become a teaching resource. It is so important that we ‘model’ environmental responsibility through ALL our approaches to every aspect of the school’s redevelopment. This is a deal breaker for us. Whilst there are issues around set-up costs for a school with such an approach to
sustainability, we need to make it clear to all stakeholders that whilst the initial design and build process may require significant investment, we need to, at all times. consider the building life-cycle costs (typically calculated over fifty or so years).

● Disposal of current building
○ As a community with have to ensure that the existing school is disposed of in a environmentally responsible way.

● Lighting
○ The design of the lighting management system in the new school will be driven by an understanding of the function of each space and the quality and type of light needed for them.
○ We need to take every opportunity to maximise the use of daylight where it is needed by using skylights, atria, light wells etc.
○ The new design needs to take account of the need to balance the trade-off between the desire for natural light with the need to control internal temperatures.
○ Every attempt must be made to ensure that lighting design supports learning. A full appraisal of health and safety issues regarding each product and system considered must be undertaken before any commitment made.
○ We should consider the use of photoelectirc cells that monitor lighting levels and automatically adjust artificial lighting levels to supplement natural light when needed.
○ Glare control is an important consideration. We need to avoid what happens now when students and teachers opt for pulling blinds down in order to prevent direct sunlight from affecting students ability to view computer screens. Sun shelves may be the answer here. These cut direct glare but maximise diffuse sunlight by directing it up to the white ceiling in a learning space.
○ High efficiency lamp technology that offers increased light quality, energy efficiency and
longevity, ultimately reducing energy and maintenance costs.

● Ventilation
○ As with conceiving of different types of common areas with different uses, we need to zone the new campus according to climate control and ventilation needs.
○ Where the use of natural ventilation is appropriate and more sustainable we need to take every opportunity to use it.
○ Multiple ways of utilizing prevailing winds and also leveraging air movement artificially need to be explored thoroughly to ensure energy efficiency and to uphold the school’s responsibility towards natural resource usage.

● Heating and Cooling
○ Linked to ‘lighting’ controlling temperature is one of the most energy intensive aspects of
building services. As such it is something that needs much consideration. Again balancing the need for natural light with the need to prevent unnecessary heat entering the new school building is a crucial issue here.
○ Some of the issues we need to engage in when designing our approach to temperature control are as follows.
○ …. orientation of the building and sub-buildings;
○ …. control of external glazing;
○ …. shading of glazed facades and external learning spaces and courtyards;
○ …. zoning of spaces for efficient local control;
○ …. use of motion sensors and timers to activate air conditioning.
○ …. a full appraisal of available and emerging technologies to most sustainably and cost effectively manage temperature control needs to be made to ensure we can optimize comfort for all users and yet still meet our responsibilities with regard to sustainability.

● Water Usage
○ We want to make every possible use of grey-water recycling in the new school.
○ The management and drainage of rain storm water should be an explicit feature of the new school. At our current site there are highly visible concrete gutters that channel the water of the roof in big waterfalls. We want to capitalize on this, develop it as a feature, and take it with us to the new school.

● Greenery and landscaping
○ We are proud of the small gardens of indigenous plant species that surround our school
currently. There is a great will within the community to extend and develop this feature in the new school . We would like to explore the possibilities for roof gardens, extensive greening around the campus, green walls and water features in the new campus.

● Materials
○ The new school will utilize indigenous materials with high recyclable content and that do not cause health problems from the emission of toxic vapours.

● Acoustics
○ A crucially important consideration in school design, we need each space to be appraised in terms of how noise is managed. Learning spaces can be busy and learning can be loud. At times groups will be engaged in intense debate in the same space where sensitive conversations between students and teachers may be going on; therefore controlling the impact of noise is important.
○ The detailed design must provide an excellent acoustic environment within the classrooms, between floors and across the building. Typically all classrooms and common areas will utilise acoustic baffles to moderate sound levels.

International mindedness
● Whilst we want our new school building to be quintessentially modern and to transcend national and cultural design traditions, we do want some of its features to be taken from Chinese Architectural tradition. We want users and visitors to be made aware that they are in China and that the school respects the traditions and art of its “host culture’. This will provide a unique challenge – as it will be all too easy to be merely tokenistic in meeting this detail of the vision.

● At the same time we would like the new school design to engender internationalism. This is a difficult aim and needs to be met in a way that goes way beyond crass surface graphics of words and strap-lines that assert our commitment to ‘celebrating diversity’ etc. Again we need to plan to avoid a tokenistic or trite response to this aspect of the vision.

Flexibility in the configuration of spaces and the patterns of their arrangement
● Flexibility relates to changes to the room layout on a short-term basis to accommodate different subjects and a range of teaching and learning styles. Use of operable walls is commonly found in schools to increase flexibility in the teaching rooms. Often however demountable walls are difficult to operate in a safe, swift and easy manner. The walls themselves have to be stored in their retracted position and they can often look municipal and unattractive.

● Learning spaces in the new Island School will be places that promote movement, rapid reconfiguration of furniture and groupings of people, and a dynamic approach to presenting and sharing information. This kind of required flexibility goes way beyond the use of demountable walls to open two spaces up into one. It means we need to fundamentally conceive of the ‘classroom’ as a place in which anything can and might happen.

● The new campus should take advantage of the opportunity for interpenetrating spaces that can easily be reconfigured to support the teaching of larger and/or smaller groups in a diverse range of ways. Often separate teaching areas can be opened up to take advantage of circulation spaces during non-movement times.

● Often times the “standard size” classroom does not meet the operational needs of the school effectively.
Frequently smaller senior student groups are taught in spaces that typically hold much larger classes. In order to best meet occupancy needs, the new school should provide a range of sized teaching rooms by faculty so that common areas can be maximised. Again demountable walls will allow bigger spaces to be split to accommodate smaller groups and at times bigger spaces to be opened up to accommodate “super-groups”.

● Integrated Learning Studios – We would like at least three spaces whose default set-up can hold up to 90 students for active teaching and learning and double that for a more formal teacher led input. This space would have multiple focal areas with LCDs, wet areas and would be designed to support short lecture style inputs as well as interactive group problem solving that would involve dynamic practical work. If the design can support more of these areas then all to the good. Several additional Integrated Learning Studios may double as common and/or circulation spaces; they may also be external covered spaces.
Ideally these spaces will be on the ground floor and be designed so that they can be opened up to the adjacent external environment and/or atrium.

● Block 5 playground is arguably the heart of Island School as it now is. We need to conserve this feature in the new school in some way and use it as a ‘conceptual’ cubit that can be repeated in a range of scales across the new school site. This agora or ‘market place’ on the ground floor should physically connect to all other key communal spaces at this level and visually connect to the whole school via the full height atrium; thereby providing a natural set of viewing “galleries”.

● Of course it is important to balance the need for and centrality of the block 5 ‘agora’ with the need for more clustered common spaces. Whilst a school of our size needs to have both an internal and external space where it can come together as an entire community for a range of purposes, we also need to give users the sense of smaller scale communities within the school. This relates to the “House and Home” section.

● Many schools, and this includes the current site, have a repetitive feel to them. Blocks are repeated, corridors are the same on each level. There is a similar approach to exterior design, surface and the use of materials around the site. This can lead to uniformity, an institutional ethos and a feeling of mundanity.

In our new campus we would like to see an heterogeneous approach to different common areas, learning spaces and circulation routes. We want users to be surprised as they move through the campus, for each space to have a distinct sense of place rather than a clone of the one they have just walked from.

● Adaptability relates to long-term change. The school shall be designed to provide for future changes in teaching methodologies and curriculum in a cost-effective manner. These include:
· introduction of new subjects or teaching methods and increased popularity of existing courses;
· modification of the ICT systems and networks; and
· developments in building automation and energy saving systems.

This section to be developed

● Ideapaint
● Interactive multi media display
● Gallery spaces
● Preplanned vertical spaces to hang banners and large 3D artwork
● Student exhibitions

Other specifics

Senior Learning Complex
● Whilst most dedicated spaces will be zoned according to subject / discipline or by vertical house; we still recognize the distinct need for a space dedicated to meeting the needs of senior students (Years 12 and 13). This ‘complex’ will accommodate a student common area, two post 16 curriculum leaders’ offices,  a HE and Careers facility, upto 6 smaller small teaching and/or private study rooms.
● The SLC will be adjacent to the learning commons and one of the range of food and beverage outlets across the campus ideally will interpenetrate with them.

Casual Eating Areas
● At the new school we want to maintain our current approach to providing food and refreshments for students and staff. That is, a range of smaller outlets spread evenly across the campus. These outlets should be adjacent to common areas that allow students to sit comfortably to consume their food whether it be inside or outside.

Leadership Offices
● Curriculum Leaders’, Senior Heads of House / Heads of House and all Senior Leaders’ offices in the school should be directly adjacent to busy student common areas. They should be designed to put the student first rather than be like a traditional office. They need to firstly support human interaction and aim to sustain and develop high quality relationships. They should have dedicated ‘break out’ areas with informal seating so that groups of students can congregate outside. Whilst at times these rooms will be needed for private meetings it would be desirable if they can be opened up to blend with the adjoining common area. Not least there should be a high level of visibility between these rooms and the immediate spaces, with the facility to make them private when the situation requires.

● We want our bathroom facilities to be modelled more on those found in homes rather than those found in large institutions. They must be small and distributed throughout the school with between 3 and 4 stalls in each facility. Ideally each of the bathrooms will be adjacent to a fully public common area. All stalls will be totally private with floor to ceiling partition walls.

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