On Friday 9th September, works to expand areas of Robert Blake School in Bridgewater, Somerset, – as part of a 1.2m high value change to the existing PFI contract – was completed. The project involved significant remodelling of existing space to increase the schools capacity from 950 to 1200. Robert Blake School is part of Invesis’ Somerset ‘Building Schools for the Future (BSF)’ concession.
Somerset County Council, in partnership with Futures for Somerset, approached Invesis in October 2019 to design and reconfigure the shared Robert Blake and Elmwood school. This includes facilitating Elmwood school relocating off site, and Robert Blake expanding into the vacated spaces. The new facilities will relieve school capacity pressures, enhancing the learning experience for both pupils and staff.
This was by no means a standard change, as it was implemented using a High Value Change Procedure. This involved a number of project phases, with the SPV and BAM FM working at risk for some of these. Early consideration of all aspects of the change was necessary including legal, planning, insurance, design, construction and FM services.
Our team operated during 2 national lockdowns due to the COVID pandemic, and encountered several challenges, such as inflated costs, national shortages of materials and labour. Invesis worked cohesively with BAM FM to keep the project within affordability limits, to meet the requirements of the SPV and our client.
Ed Martin, Business Manager at Robert Blake School said that the new facilities will enable pupils to flourish, ‘‘The new laboratories provide our students with state of the art facilities, and a bright airy learning environment in which to learn and flourish. The rooms follow the latest design thinking, achieving a great balance between practical space for teacher demonstrations, students carrying out experiments, and general classwork’.
Construction works were carried out in two stages to minimise the impact on end users. Stage 1 involved the decant of Elmwood School, moving into a purpose-built special education needs (SEN) school within the Bridgewater area. Works to create 12 rooms, including classrooms, a disabled toilet and an office space – all while the school remained live – was completed on 27th May 2022.
‘These spaces largely host the school’s Mathematics and Additional Support Needs (ASN) departments, allowing the school to continue its rapid expansion,’ says Ed Martin. ‘Students and staff have already, and will continue to benefit from these wonderful new learning spaces’.
The bulk of the work was carried out in stage 2, which involved the conversion of 3 standard classrooms and a science super-lab into five science classrooms. Works were completed on 9th September 2022.
‘Knowing that Invesis’ played a central role in providing a great facility for students in the Bridgwater area for years to come fills me with pride,’ says Eamon McKiernan, Operations Manager. ‘Somerset Schools BSF is a project close to my heart – now that the works have been completed, I must say the facilities look fantastic!’