Oak Tree SEN School

Introduction

Welcome to our proposals for the new Oak Tree SEN School. This website sets out the current draft proposals for the school to update residents and other parties on the scheme and to also ask for feedback. This will help inform the final proposals submitted for planning approval.

 

Oak Tree SEN School: Maiden Erlegh Trust

The new Oak Tree SEN school will form part of the Maiden Erlegh Trust Academies in Reading and surrounding areas. Maiden Erlegh Trust is committed to providing a learning environment for pupils with complex needs including social, emotional and mental health (SEMH), and Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) difficulties.

The Trust prioritises education, well-being, happiness and personal development of all and will support pupil growth through a rich and stimulating curriculum as well as through specialist personal development education and targeted therapeutic programmes to ensure students achieve their potential. Maiden Erlegh Trust Academies strive to ensure that all pupils leave their schools as confident and articulate children and young adults, motivated by a strong sense of personal worth, respect for others and commitment to service to others and hard work.

For further information about Maiden Erlegh Trust, please visit https://www.maidenerleghtrust.org/

 

The Site

The proposed site is located to the east of Woodward Close in Winnersh, to the North West of Wokingham. It is located outside of the existing Winnersh settlement boundary and is therefore within the open countryside for planning purposes. The scheme is in line with new and emerging Council policies and has Wokingham’s support in principle.

The site is located to the east of the existing Wheatfield Primary School and comprises open grassland and forms part of an area of agricultural land. There are a number of trees and hedgerows bordering the site and within its compounds. The surrounding areas to the west and south are predominantly characterised by dense urban residential settlements, however, to north east of the site development is slightly more sporadic, providing a general rural character.

There are railway lines approximately 80m south west of the site, with the nearest train station, Winnersh Train Station, situated approximately 700m North West of the site, with links to Wokingham, Guildford, and Central London. Directly south of the site is the M4 motorway and the A329. In addition, the Royal British Legion Club (RBLC) and allotments are situated to the south of the site, the latter of which can be accessed via an informal track just south of the access to the adjacent Wheatfield Primary School.

Pedestrian access to the site is via Woodward Close, which has a bus stop within walking distance of the site.

According to the Environment Agency online mapping tool, the site is in Flood Zone 1.

The proposed new school site is shown within the red lines on the aerial image below:

 
 

The Team

Reds10 are a leading modular and volumetric contractor who have been appointed as the main contractor for the new Oak Tree SEN School. With a wealth of experience in the Education Sector, Reds10 are developing new SEN and mainstream schools as part of the Department for Education’s Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Framework across the UK. The team’s appointment on the scheme resulted from a successful track record, exemplary health and safety standards and consistency in providing amazing spaces for clients, end users and local communities.

HLM Architects are a top 30 UK architectural practice by size and their largest sector is education - regularly recognised by industry for design expertise, with numerous project and practice awards, for example shortlisted in 2019 for BD Education Architect of the Year, and named as Education Architect of the Year by Education Estates in 2018.

DHA Planning are planning consultants who will oversee the planning application on behalf of Reds10 and the Department for Education. DHA have a wealth of experience in the education sector, securing planning consent for a number of new schools, including many primary schools, across the south of England.

 

The Proposals

The proposals are funded by the Department for Education and follow their detailed design requirements and guidance to ensure that the school comprises the type and quality of teaching accommodation necessary to meet best practice standards.

The proposal is for the construction of a new 150 place SEN school, with access, parking and landscaping.

Reds10 has been selected as the preferred contractor to deliver the school on behalf of the Department for Education and as such are developing the proposals and design with a view to submitting an application in the near future.

The proposal will provide the boroughs of Wokingham and Reading with a much-needed special educational needs school, which caters for both primary and secondary school age pupils with social, emotional, and mental health needs (SEMH) and/or Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC). The need for SEN spaces is rising and there is currently a shortage of spaces in both boroughs. Many of the children who will attend this school are in mainstream schooling and therefore the proposal will address a specific and urgent need for specialist spaces. Other pupils are currently required to travel out of the area for SEN education.

The development is expected to include the following elements across the site:

  • Erection of a new 2-storey school building with appropriate classrooms, dining areas, therapy rooms, specialist teaching spaces and a multi-use hall;
  • External formal and informal play areas including a MUGA and sports field;
  • Car parking and dedicated drop off area; and
  • A new access point from Woodward Close and internal access road, providing connectivity to the existing allotments.

The proposed design and development of the scheme is set out in more detail within the accompanying design material.

The Oak Tree SEN school is being developed in parallel with a new Wokingham Borough Council residential scheme on the adjacent site for circa 100 new homes. We are working collaboratively to ensure the best use of land; the new school is to be constructed separately to the residential proposals and will be subject to its own separate planning application and neither of the projects are reliant on one another for development to progress. The school project team are liaising with the Council’s residential developers to ensure the scheme will be designed creating the best use of space and providing amenities in the school site including sports pitches and specialist spaces that can be shared with the community for out of hours use. The need for the school and providing pupils with places is urgent and essential to the local communities and will be submitted to planning independent of any residential development.

 

Site Layout

The proposed site layout seeks to create a safe and functional school environment that integrates seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. There are several existing Category ‘A’ and ‘B’ trees throughout the site that shall be retained and complimented by new soft planting throughout the site. Playground space is predominantly to the north and west of the site, to allow key outdoor play spaces to be linked with the internal classroom layout. The MUGA is located to the north west corner surrounded by a high sports fence. Parking and drop off is located at the south of the site, allowing a simple loop for entry and exit. There are individual entrances to the building, to allow an organised drop off for pupils. The site perimeter will be secured through mesh fencing and gates to all boundaries, softened through strategic hedge and tree planting proposals.

 
 

Internal Layout

The proposed design and internal layout respond to the site layouts, with the main visitor entrance and school administration sitting in the centre of the site, being clearly visible on approach from the car park to the south. Additional entrances leading directly to the primary and secondary pupils are to the east and west of the visitor entrance, highlighted using different cladding materials and architectural design. A multiuse hall, 2 dining halls and changing rooms are all close to the main visitor entrance for potential future community use, with access upstairs via a nearby stairwell allowing specialist teaching spaces to be used for evening classes and activities. The teaching accommodation is over two storeys, with the ground floor predominantly for primary use with some secondary classrooms, and the first floor comprising of secondary and sixth form spaces. Specialist teaching spaces are located on the first floor including a science studio, food tech room, art & design studio, music/drama studio and a life skills room. Multiple therapy, group rooms and calm spaces are located throughout the building, including dedicated physiotherapy, sensory and immersion rooms on the ground floor.

 

Design

The proposed external materials consist of a muted, natural palette and have been selected to both respond to the local context whilst creating a distinct identity for the school that is open and welcoming. The predominant material is a treated timber, where an unstained wood colour is used to give a natural appearance, which is appropriate to its rural location. The Thermowood cladding will feature different textures and arrangements, complemented by light grey cedral panels which are integrated into the design to highlight entrances for pupils and visitors. The colour scheme internally and externally utilises calming colours that are ASC and SEMH friendly, creating feelings of comfort, warmth, and joy. The interiors concept draws inspiration from the lifecycle of an Oak Tree through the seasons to mimic the student’s journey, incorporating the site’s prominent feature into the school.


All the materials are hard wearing and will weather well, providing the school with a high quality yet low maintenance building.

 
 
 
 

Landscaping

General

The landscape proposals aim to create a series of external school spaces, combining a balance of areas for hard and soft play. Grass seeded areas of soft play would be proposed, extending from the edges of the hard play out to the site boundary. The MUGA and hard surfaced areas will be softened through feature planting areas incorporating an ornamental mix of flowering shrubs, grasses, and herbaceous accent planting when appropriate. Existing hedgerows on the northern boundary will provide a natural screening between the school and any potential developments to the north.

Frontage & Public Areas

The development of the frontage and public areas will be softened with tree planting and grass seeding to the edges of the car park and access to the site. The majority of existing trees will be maintained onsite and the site has been designed to maintain healthy trees wherever possible. The frontage will be protected with secure fencing, softened through flowering perennial planting to edgings and an entrance planting bed.

Soft Landscape

The site falls to the north of the M4 and to the east of Wheatfield Primary School and is designed to ensure all onsite soft landscaping is to the north of the site, maintaining existing greenspace and keeping play areas including grass sports pitches away from the noise of the motorway. Green boundary treatments will be used including strategic tree and hedge planting as well as vegetation to further soften the appearance of the school to the surrounding green space.

Habitat Area

A habitat area of native mixed-species wildflower grassland is proposed at the south of the building, surrounding the Category ‘A’ Oak Tree. The native wildflower grassland would assist in providing foraging and habitat potential for species of small invertebrates and birds. New bat, bird and insect nesting boxes will be provided, creating further habitat potential, seasonal interest and learning opportunities for pupils.

The development proposal aims to fit within the character of the surrounding rural setting and enhance the local area by using natural materials merging into the existing environment. The landscape proposal shall bring habitat opportunities and increased biodiversity by linking existing habitats, such as the protected trees on site and creating new ones within the site itself.

 
 
 

Sustainability and Building Performance

Oak Tree SEN School is being developed with sustainable design and energy strategy at its heart. The school is currently designed to achieve carbon neutral status utilising on-site renewable technologies including photovoltaic panels and heat pumps.

The proposal will be designed with the principles of the Energy Hierarchy, whereby energy and carbon are minimised through passive means such as fabric improvements, thermal mass, and natural ventilation. Thereafter, low-zero and renewable technologies are implemented where appropriate.

Acoustic and air quality modelling has been undertaken to ensure the building meets all school performance requirements and will not be impacted by its proximity to the M4. Enhanced acoustic wall, floor and ceiling types are used where applicable and onsite testing has stipulated that the building will use non-openable windows with mechanical ventilation throughout. CO2 sensors will be located within all classrooms to help monitor and control internal air quality.

Heating, cooling, and hot water will be provided using highly efficient air source heat pumps with efficiency levels typically in excess of 350%. A fabric first approach will be used to minimise energy demand, with an energy performance ‘A’ rating and an all-electric low carbon approach used throughout the building. Furthermore, the design has also received BREEAM Pre-Approval through the Department for Education, should there be a requirement to for certification. The anticipated energy use of the building is indicated below.

 
 

Access and Parking

Wider access to the site will be derived via a new access road from Woodward Close. This road will provide access to the school and is also expected to serve forthcoming residential developments to the north and east.

The vehicle access to the site will form a looped, one-way arrangement, with vehicles entering via the western priority access and leaving via the eastern priority access.

Pedestrian access to the site will be provided to the west of the ‘in-only’ vehicle access. A further pedestrian access has been indicated to the east of the site; however, this is subject to change depending on the anticipated masterplan plan for the wider area.

A pick-up/drop-off area is proposed to the south of the school building, for mini-buses and taxis. The drop-off area shown has a length of approximately 65m, with capacity to accommodate in the region of 11 light vehicles.

The proposed school role is for 150 pupils, the majority of which it is anticipated will travel to site via Local Education Authority (LEA) vehicles, including taxies and minibuses, based on experience of other SEN schools. The total number of staff employed at the site will be 99 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) staff.

The onsite parking provision totals 61 spaces, including six disabled bays and four minibus bays. A further car parking provision accommodating 19 spaces will be provided within the vicinity of the site to accommodate staff and visitor parking needs. Five percent of the onsite parking bays will be provided with Electric Vehicle (EV) charging capabilities, with a further five per cent of bays provided with ‘passive’ charging capabilities for future conversion as EVs increase, in accordance with Wokingham’s guidance.

Bicycle and scooter parking are proposed at a level which meets anticipated demand, having regard to the specific needs of the pupils. Space on site will also be made available for future additional provision and this can be monitored through the school’s Travel Plan.

The refuse store is to be located to the south of the site entrance for ease of collection and allows for pick up within the confines of the site.

 
 

Community Use

The school is committed to delivering and operating a school which can be enjoyed and used by the community, making the facility available for community use outside of school hours on evenings and weekends. The multi-use hall, specialist teaching spaces, MUGA and sports pitches can be used to provide a range of activities including evening classes, exercise classes, community performances and meetings.

 

Construction

Reds10 specialise in modular construction allowing the majority of building work to be undertaken in the off-site factory in Driffield, East Yorkshire. The work undertaken off-site predominately features the completion of modular superstructures, floors, ceilings, internal walls, glazing and roof construction. This process greatly reduces the time required on-site, thus minimising disruption as much as possible to neighbours as well as facilitating the construction process.

It is anticipated that, should the project be granted planning permission, works are scheduled to commence in September 2021 with the project expected to reach completion in September 2022. Delivery routes will be detailed in a Construction Environmental Management Plan submitted as part of the planning application.

We aim to reduce any disruption to the local community, and we will hold monthly drop-in sessions where members of Reading and Wokingham Boroughs are able to engage with our site management team and ask any questions they may have.

 

Next Steps

Comments and questions on these plans will be open until Friday 7th May 2021. All comments received will be reviewed by the design team and considered in the application, alongside comments received from the Council. Public comments will be considered to help form the final scheme that will be formally submitted for planning approval. A planning application is anticipated for submission in mid-May 2021 with a target to be determined in late August 2021. As part of the application determination process, the Council will formally consult residents and other bodies.