A school’s buildings affected by reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) will be demolished as part of a major redevelopment.

St Leonard’s Catholic School in Durham has had a planning application approved by the county council to start demolition on the buildings, after they were deemed unsafe.

Hundreds of students have been taught in temporary accommodation since the discovery of Raac in 2023.

The new school site will include a sports hall and an assembly hall, as well as a dining hall.

Only Springwell Hall and the sixth form building will be retained as part of the new development, with the majority of the school’s existing buildings to be demolished.

Demolition work is due to start in the coming weeks, while the EFAB Building will be knocked down in August 2026 after asbestos removal.

However, one household – which is next to the school – told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that it was worried about being surrounded by building works.

“We are concerned that the second demolition of buildings, close to the eastern exit, is not to commence until August 2026.

“At the end of the planned second demolition, the development will have been under way for over two years. If County Hall is also to be demolished during this time it will only exacerbate the feeling of being sandwiched between building sites.”

There were also objections from residents and civic group the City of Durham Trust about the number of trees due to be felled as part of the demolition works.

Watson Batty Architects has announced a considerable boost to its education sector portfolio with a number of new instructions across the UK.

Since the Government committed to increase its allocation for upgrading schools, which includes £1.8 billion for the 2024-25 financial year, Watson Batty has seen a surge in business that now accounts for 32% of total turnover. This includes major new build projects for national contractors including Tilbury Douglas, ISG and modular building specialist Algeco UK.

Recent instructions include the design and delivery for a new science block at Saint Benedict Catholic Voluntary Academy in Derby and a new 1,200 place 11- to 16-year-old school for the Northampton School for Boys. Planning consent was recently secured for a replacement school at Beacon Academy in Cleethorpes, Tees Valley SEND School, Leeds City Academy and works are due to commence on a replacement building for Hempland Primary School in York.

Watson Batty is also working with the University of Leeds, Leeds Becket University and Loughborough University to provide several new specialist health, science, and engineering facilities.

As an appointed Technical Advisor for the Department of Education, Watson Batty employs a highly skilled team that specialises in all aspects of learning sector estates design ranging from early years, primary, secondary, and Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) through to further and higher education.

Peter White, Managing Director at Watson Batty Architects, said,

“We are a 48-year-old, award winning practice with considerable skills in all manner of projects across all built environment sectors. However, in recent years we have honed our ‘learning’ sector expertise in line with the Department for Education procurement strategy and formed strategic partnerships with a number of contractors to secure a strong pipeline.

“It is rewarding to see the growth of net zero carbon in operation projects in our education portfolio with a fabric first approach taking precedent. We see strong potential in delivering better educational facilities, and in particular much needed SEND provisions, nationally through upgrading existing stock and with the aid of modern methods of construction.”

“Indeed, the recent £850 million cash pledge by Government to improve accessibility for people with SEND is driving new upgrades to existing estates nationwide. Watson Batty is known for its specialist expertise in this area.”

Watson Batty designed The Vine SEND college for Leeds City Council with a particularly challenging brief to support students with severe disabilities. The now completed two-storey building allows students to access a broad curriculum and specialist spaces including rebound therapy, a physiotherapy suite, sensory rooms, hydrotherapy pool, and extensive life-skills centre.  Teaching areas contain hoists to allow students to freely access a range of spaces and easily transition between different activities.

At the end of last year Watson Batty announced that it was trading ten percent ahead of its £3.3 million turnover target just six months into its current financial year.

Watson Batty Architects is a future focused business offering architectural, interior design and master planning solutions for all sectors. Employing a team of 35 people across offices in Leeds and Loughborough, the practice is credited for many major public and private sector projects including schools, universities, sport and leisure, distribution facilities, commercial, master planning, residential and care developments and transport hubs.

Its team is also involved with the RIBA Student Mentoring Programme at the University of Sheffield, De Montfort University, Huddersfield, Leicester, and Loughborough University.

Springmoor Grange School will become home to students from the existing Ox Close Primary and Ox Close Nursery Schools.

The contractor behind the construction of a new primary school in Spennymoor, which will replace the existing Ox Close Primary and Ox Close Nursery Schools, has shared the latest images from the site as the project nears completion.

North of England contractor, Esh Construction, is working in partnership with Durham County Council to deliver a two-storey school that will open in September 2024 and have capacity for up to 630 pupils in addition to a nursery unit. The new school will be called Springmoor Grange School and will be located on the Durham Road site of the former Tudhoe Grange Comprehensive School.

Passers-by can see the latest progress externally, with brickwork, rainscreen cladding and curtain walling all substantially complete, allowing the perimeter scaffold to be taken down to reveal the new building. Photovoltaic (PV) panels have been installed on the roof which will allow the school to generate its own solar energy.

The fit-out internally, including first and second fix joinery, is well underway and will create 21 teaching classrooms, a nursery, learning community suite, library, office spaces, staff room, toilet facilities, changing rooms, hall, and dining and kitchen facilities. Fixed furniture is also being installed, including classroom kitchens.

First fix mechanical and electrical works are well advanced and over the coming weeks, the focus will be on finishes and decoration as Esh Construction moves towards final handover.

The site car park is complete and work is ongoing off Spennymoor’s Durham Road to form new entrances into the school.

Grant Watson, Construction Manager for Esh’s commercial build division, said: “At Esh, we are proud to work within the local community to deliver a brand-new primary school that will benefit the local area for years to come. Working alongside Durham County Council, the school is being delivered to ensure that children in the area have the best facilities to learn and develop in their early school years.

“Throughout the scheme, we are working hard to maximise the social and economic benefits for the local area – to date, 91% of the workforce are from the North East region, 166 apprentice weeks have been delivered, and 24 veterans have worked on the project.”

The project is being designed and funded by Durham County Council and will ensure school provision in Spennymoor keeps pace with growing demand for places.

Anna Bowden, Acting Executive Headteacher at Ox Close Federation, said: “It has been great to witness the progress of Springmoor Grange School over the last few months and we have continued to work alongside Durham County Council and Esh Construction to ensure that the project is of maximum benefit for the children of Spennymoor, their families and the wider community.

“The new school will enhance our current provision, whilst also building upon the high standards, strong community ethos and wraparound care that Ox Close Primary and Ox Close Nursery Schools are noted for. It is a very exciting time and we are looking forward to moving and welcoming the children this September.”

Plans to refurbish the former St James’ Primary in Calton have been given the go ahead, paving the way for the opening of Glasgow’s fourth Gaelic school.

Council planners have now approved the city education department’s bid to revamp — and extend — the B-listed Green Street building.

It is expected to be completed by December next year and open in January 2026. Pupils are currently being taught at North Kelvinside Primary.

Permission was previously granted to demolish part of the “derelict” school. The revamp of the remaining building presents “a vital lifeline for one of Calton’s most significant heritage assets”, the plans stated.

Under the scheme, the former primary school, which has been empty since 2009, will become part of Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig a’ Challtainn — Calton Gaelic Primary School.

There will be 12 classrooms and two general purpose rooms, reusing the original classroom spaces. A multi-use games area will be provided too.

The project also includes an extension, to be built on what was the original playground. It will have an assembly hall, kitchen and a drama and performance classroom.

It was reported in September last year that the council would have to spend up to £11.6 million on the project, up from an initial estimate of £8.25 million, due to the building being in a worse condition and inflation.

Overall, the school is expected to cost £22.8 million, with funding also being provided by the Scottish Government.

Plans submitted by education services stated the school is “in a derelict state” and will “require substantial renovation work.”

“With St James’ fulfilling the requirements for Glasgow’s fourth Gaelic medium school, the project presents a vital lifeline for one of Calton’s most significant heritage assets and may play a part in energising regeneration of other historic assets in the area,” they added.

The new Gaelic school would join Glendale Primary School in the south and Govan Gaelic Primary School and Glasgow Gaelic School in the west.

Calton Community Council supported the proposal as it will “see the historic building reused in a sensitive and appropriate manner.”

No off-street parking is included in the plan. There will be four accessible spaces, two accessible drop-off bays and one bus bay. Parking for 89 bikes will be provided.

Planners reported the proposal would “salvage a substantial listed building which is one of the remaining pieces of cultural heritage of the Calton area and would make use of a prominent brownfield site that had fallen into significant disrepair.”

Previous plans for demolition covered toilet extensions and a section to the rear of the school building. Emergency works had already been carried out to the roof to “avoid uncontrolled collapse and halt further distress to the building.”

The school, built in 1885, was used until 2009 when remaining pupils were moved to Alexandra Parade Primary.

Source: STV News

Just two of the 41 councils given “health checks” by the government over their preparedness to exit private finance initiative (PFI) school deals were deemed to be on track, Schools Week can reveal.

Sector leaders fear schools will be left to “shoulder the storm” of councils not being ready to take back public control of the schools, as contracts start to come to an end.

In one case, a secondary school facing a £1 million “bullet payment” to get rid of its PFI contractor has written to ministers asking for help to foot the bill.

‘Major work’ still needed

Successive governments have used PFI to fund new schools since the late 1990s. Private firms build and maintain sites in exchange for mortgage-style payments normally over 25-year contracts – which rise beyond inflation – before handing them over to taxpayers.

In 2021, the Cabinet Office started running health checks on contracts set to expire in less than seven years, the point at which authorities are told to start their preparations.

Officials use the assessments to help councils “improve their readiness” and identify projects that may require more support from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority.

But our freedom of information request shows that, of the 41 checks completed in the schools sector, eight (19.5 per cent) were rated “amber/red”, meaning “major” additional work is needed.

Another 18 (44 per cent) were “amber”, meaning “moderate” work was still required. Just two were rated “green”, meaning they were “at target readiness given the time to expiry”.

Julia Harnden, a funding specialist for school leaders’ union ASCL, said: “On an administrative level, the length of time that has passed since these contracts were signed and the shrinking capacity at local authority level, as a result of funding cuts from central government, are providing further complications for schools.

“It is a perfect storm and … schools should not be having to shoulder this risk.”

‘Shrinking’ council capacity

Ian Denison, the director of PFI consultancy Inscyte, said this leaves schools’ fates in the hands of others. “The party with the least ability to influence the status of expiry is the one that’s going to pick up all the consequential impact,” he explained.

The first PFI school to reach the end of its contract was handed back last year. The second, Barnhill Community High School in west London, will come into public ownership in September.

Middlesex Learning Partnership Trust CEO Ben Spinks, whose chain runs the secondary, said that negotiations, which began in 2019, with PFI operator Bellrock were ongoing.

He stressed that “all of the parties are genuinely trying to work through this constructively”, with the final set of site surveys completed last month.

Despite this, Spinks fears that large chunks of his budget will be swallowed up by a £1 million “bullet payment”, should the trust replace Bellrock as facilities manager.

“We’re making the moral argument that we should be assisted in making the payment because we are, to the best of our knowledge, the only PFI school that has such a condition attached to it.

“The impact will be substantial. It impacts the educational opportunities we can provide our young people.”

Accounts show that the three-school trust’s free reserves stood at £1.04 million in August. Spinks estimated that the payment “roughly equates to two years’ pupil premium funding”.

Surveys still not completed

In Stoke, which has the largest school PFI contract in the country, city council chiefs are negotiating the expiry terms for 88 schools before their contract ends next October.

One leader said the lack of certainty around the arrangements has left them feeling “nervous” about how it will impact their bottom line.

“We feel, with these big private organisations, schools and trusts are just quite small in comparison,” they added.

A confidential meeting was held by the city council last month to discuss contract expiry obligations. Denison has since begun talks with some of the schools.

He believes that some work needed to take place before the end of the contract is “never going to happen” as surveys on the buildings have not yet been completed. PFI schools are expected to be handed back in good condition.

“Unless you start in year seven all the way through to expiry, you’ll never get the investment into the school that you need to get the estate to reach the standard it should,” Denison said. “The only party that benefits by dragging expiry into a later stage is the [PFI firm].”

‘Critical time’

Sheffield schools forum documents, released in December, show it has in place a “project team” to manage the expiry of three separate contracts. The first will end in 2026.

Council officials said they have been working on this since the end of 2021. In the same year, it received an ‘amber’ rating following an initial health check. The authority is expecting to have a follow-up assessment shortly.

And in Calderdale, authority papers from last February stated that it was unlike most councils, which “employ an officer with a dedicated role for management of PFI, Calderdale does not. This now needs to be reconsidered”.

“It is seven years to the expiry of the PFI contract. This is a critical time for the authority and for those schools … to be planning for life after PFI. This is a huge undertaking.”

In all, there are 172 PFI school projects in England. Just two will have finished their contracts by the end of 2024. A further 43 will come to a close over the next six years.

The total capital value of the primaries and secondaries built under the agreements stands at £8.5 billion, while the amount that schools will pay the private firms is estimated to be more than £32.7 billion in total.

Shareholders rake in huge dividends

The Treasury has published finance details for a handful of PFI contracts. They show shareholders across just five schools projects will rake in £35 million in dividends over the course of the contracts.

In a report published in 2020, the NAO noted that councils “may not be incentivised … to manage the expiry process effectively, knowing they will not retain ownership”. Those with a single PFI deal lack capacity or expertise for expiry talks, it added.

The government stressed the Infrastructure and Projects Authority “is already working with a large number of local authorities to ensure they get value for money” from their school deals, with preparations “beginning up to seven years” in advance.

Vercity Management Services Ltd, the firm listed as Transform Schools (Stoke) Limited’s secretary on Companies House, and Bellrock have been contacted for comment.

Children from Undy Primary School visited a local building site to gain first-hand experience of the construction process.

The excursion allowed the 60 year four pupils to glimpse into their local area’s development and better understand the steps behind housebuilding.

The trip included a comprehensive tour of the Vistry site at Seymour Place in Undy, where both Bovis and Linden properties are under construction. The children were introduced to key aspects of site safety, saw a bricklaying demonstration and took a stab at the new skill themselves. In addition to gaining on-ground experience, the students were educated about the various tasks carried out on a development site. This ranged from plumbing, carpentry, decorating to bricklaying. They also viewed the show home and wandered through an unwrapped house which showcased the home’s exposed ceilings, walls, piping, electrics and structural components.

Teacher Miss Kirkman said of the bricklaying: “It was wonderful to see every child have a go.”

“It was fascinating to look behind the scenes in the unwrapped home and it made them view the show home very differently, as they had an understanding of the work involved,” she continued.

Seymour Place site manager, Dave Buckingham, said: “The children were enthusiastic and it was brilliant to see them so engaged.”

Team members leading the tour included Andrew Stanton, assistant site manager, Emma Mackay, PR manager, Mike Laws, area sales manager, and Victoria Halifax, sales consultant – all of whom answered questions posed by the children.

The bricklaying demonstration was steered by Kevin and the team at Mike Etheridge Construction.



Construction has begun on a new £50m joint campus for two south east Northumberland schools, one of Northumberland County Council’s flagship school projects.

The ‘super-school’ in Seaton Delaval will become the new home of over 1,000 pupils at Astley Community High School and Whytrig Middle School, and its facilities will include a swimming pool and sports fields.

Pupils from both schools, part of the Seaton Valley Federation, attended a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction work, which is due to be complete by September 2025.

Lewis, a year six pupil at Whytrig Middle School, said: “It looks like an amazing site so far and I will be proud to come to school here.

“I am most looking forward to the school fields and sports hall, and we will be able to access larger areas to learn and play sport.

“I would like to be a builder or a structural engineer, so it is exciting for me to see a working site and to see how it is going to be transformed from a grassy field into a massive school.

“I think the future looks really bright here and there will be more opportunities.”

John Barnes, executive headteacher at the Seaton Valley Federation, said: “The kids are absolutely buzzing. The scale of the operation is huge and we are going to have such a brilliant facility, not just for the pupils but for the community as well.”

The schools will have separate classrooms at the new premises but will share science labs, art studios, and some other facilities. The school building is designed to be carbon neutral in operation.

In addition to the pool, multi-use games areas totalling seven tennis courts and a fitness studio will be built as well as real and artificial surface pitches, which will be available for community use outside of teaching hours.

Parking proposals consist of a ‘park and stride’ with a new car park a few minutes’ walk from the premises.

Tony Fitzgerald, construction director at the site’s contractor BAM, said: “This is one of the biggest sites we have worked with and includes extensive sports facilities.

“As well as turning these plans into reality we will also be working closely with the schools to involve young people as much as possible, from providing real-world work experience in the many disciplines within the construction industry, to apprenticeship opportunities.

“Making a difference to the communities that we are working in is a really important driver for BAM.”

A new school building was first proposed in 2016. The schools currently have a multi-million-pound backlog of repairs and the presence of asbestos means refurbishments are impossible without closing large parts of the schools.

Cllr Guy Renner-Thompson, cabinet member for education, said: “It is absolutely fantastic to stand here and see the plans for this amazing new super-school start to take shape.

“This investment in our young people and the wider community will transform education and sports facilities in Seaton Valley for generations to come, bringing wide-ranging benefits to education, health, and well-being.”

In an innovative response to the ongoing conflict, Zaporizhzhia officials have announced plans to construct underground schools to ensure uninterrupted education for children in the region, highlighting both the resilience of communities in conflict zones and the challenges of maintaining essential services under such conditions.

Adapting to Conflict: A New Approach to Education

With the relentless shelling in Zaporizhzhia making traditional schooling impossible, local authorities are taking bold steps to adapt. The regional governor revealed plans for building underground educational facilities, aiming to provide a safe learning environment for students. This initiative, set to commence by May, is expected to see the completion of at least two underground schools by the new academic year. The projects, which will be coordinated with military leadership to ensure safety, demonstrate a commitment to education even in the most challenging circumstances.

International Support and Construction Details

Understanding the magnitude of the challenge, Zaporizhzhia’s officials are reaching out to international partners for financial support of this ambitious project. The construction of these underground facilities is not just about creating space for education; it’s about crafting a semblance of normalcy for children whose lives have been disrupted by conflict. These efforts reflect an innovative approach to crisis management, leveraging architecture and community planning to protect and preserve educational continuity.

Mixed-Format Learning and Security Measures

Beyond the construction of underground schools, the region is also focusing on improving existing educational facilities to accommodate mixed-format learning. This includes the arrangement of shelters within schools to allow for some level of traditional classroom interaction, ensuring that children’s education does not lag due to the ongoing conflict. The depth and design of these underground schools will vary, taking into account the specific security needs of different districts within Zaporizhzhia, ensuring that learning can proceed uninterrupted, even during air raids.

As Zaporizhzhia forges ahead with these groundbreaking plans, the initiative serves as a poignant reminder of the resilience of communities in the face of adversity. While the construction of underground schools is a testament to the human spirit’s ingenuity, it also underscores the dire need for peaceful resolutions to conflicts that disrupt the lives and futures of the youngest members of society. As this project unfolds, it will undoubtedly become a focal point for discussions on education, conflict, and the indomitable will to persevere.

When it comes to constructing schools, colleges and universities, it’s important to balance

aesthetic design with building safety. It’s about creating spaces that are not only safe

and functional but also welcoming and inspiring for both staff and students.

The new Academy Tien in The Netherlands strikes this balance perfectly,

with Pyroguard’s fire safe solutions playing a pivotal role throughout.


Designed by Wiersema Architecten and de Architecten CIE, the Academy Tien is a beautiful new school building near the centre of Utrecht. Catering for students between 10 and 18 years old, the academy has been constructed with a contemporary open plan layout, to maximise the building’s natural light transmission.


Contracted to deliver the fire-resistant steel interior partitions and frames on the project, was JM Van Delft & zn, a specialist in glazing system solutions. Ruud van Dal, Sales and Operations Manager at JM Van Delft & zn, said:

“Throughout this project, it was important that both aesthetics and safety were considered and well balanced. There was a clear requirement for keeping the school’s interior spaces light and open, while simultaneously providing a safe environment for students, staff and visitors to work and learn in. As a result, fire safety glass was chosen as the perfect material for installation within the building’s internal partitions, doors and central atrium.

“Pyroguard Protect EW60 was installed within the doors, sidelights and designated escape routes. While Pyroguard Protect EI60, offering the highest level of protection, was installed between classrooms and the central atrium, creating a series of fire safe compartments.”


This process of compartmentation can form a key part of any building’s passive fire protection strategy, working to split the building up into a series of fire safe zones. As well as helping to limit the spread of a fire, this can also provide both a safe route of escape for occupants and a means of entry for the emergency services.


Ruud continued:

“Pyroguard Protect’s high visual appearance helped to maintain the light and open interior that the architect desired, while its multi-functional capabilities proved key in delivering improved acoustic control and impact resistance – something which was a clear priority when designing the new academy.”


Pyroguard Protect is a toughened fire safety glass, certified for use in steel, timber and aluminium profiles. Providing 30 to 180 minutes of protection against smoke and flames, 1B1 impact resistance, and UV stability, Pyroguard Protect ensures that both design and safety requirements can be achieved.


The Academy Tien opened its doors to students in January 2024.



A major section of Bradford secondary school is set to be demolished and replaced with modern, net zero buildings, the Department for Education has revealed.

Two blocks at Trinity Academy Bradford – the former Queensbury School and then Queensbury Academy – will be knocked down to make way for the new buildings under newly submitted plans. The third block will be given a full refurbishment, and there will be an increase in the amount of playing pitches on the site.

Image Credit: Department for Education

An application for the work has been submitted to Bradford Council by the Department for Education this week. It says some of the buildings are in a “poor condition” and are “failing to meet the needs” of the school.

The planning application said: “Trinity MAT have highlighted that the school buildings are suffering from various repair issues, which are prohibiting the school from using some classrooms and also are causing issues with main facilities (such as the dining and sports hall) which have suffered from water damage as a result of the poor condition of the buildings and are currently failing to meet the needs of the Trust.

“Block EFFA and ROSLA block also have inherent issues with life expired roof and asbestos in the fabric of the building. The three-storey EFAB block was built in the year 2000 and accommodates a significant amount of teaching accommodation, which is to be retained. The scheme will deliver an overall net gain of playing pitches in excess of 10,000sqm which is a substantial benefit to sports provision on the site.”

The application also says the new buildings will be “net zero” and much more environmentally friendly than the existing building.

It adds: “The development will include PV solar panels to allow for on-site energy generation, high-performance fabric U-values, triple glazed windows and hybrid ventilation systems, all of which will result in a development which provides significant reductions in carbon and environmental impacts.”

A public consultation on the plans took place late last year, and 19 people living in Queensbury responded. Some participants raised concerns about the plans, particularly a proposal to re-open a footpath to the school from Russell Hall Lane.

One resident said: “These were originally closed off due to the amount of traffic using Russell Hall Lane to drop off and pick students up. when you have lots of kids walking up and down it can be quite intimidating, especially for our elderly residents.”

The application responds to these concerns by saying: “Whilst we appreciate reintroducing the footpath may result in some disruption to residents through additional foot traffic in this area, there are also significant benefits by reducing the length of trips some students take to walk to school.”

A statement from the school said: “We are delighted with the progress that has been made in recent months regarding the proposed new building and refurbishment at Trinity Academy Bradford, and we are all looking forward to enjoying the significant improvements the new facilities will offer.

“The plans represent a substantial investment in our education infrastructure and will provide an outstanding learning environment for students in the local area.

“The building will include a range of new classrooms; a modern dining hall; multipurpose hall and performance space; Learning Resource Centre; and modern sports hall with additional sporting facilities.

“The new building and refurbishment will promote academic excellence and provide the ideal platform for students to succeed and take the next steps on their educational journey.”