november 2018

Overcoming unforeseen challenges in Kennington

A number of difficulties – unforeseen because they existed underground – added a further six months’ activity to a 12-month project for ME Construction at Kennington Park Academy in South London. Alex Banks, ME Construction’s project manager explained, “Unknown to everyone, the site contained a number of underground obstructions, including a several large cables traversing the ground.

“This meant that the design for the new building’s foundation had to change. We worked closely with the building’s design team, notably the client’s structural engineer and our own groundwork specialist contractor, to come up with a viable solution – conscious, all the time, of the growing pressures on everyone to get the project completely safely and to a high quality, not least for the sake of pupils and future pupils at the school.

“To gather the evidence that we needed, we spent some time boring holes and taking soil samples around the site,” he added. “In the end, we determined to adopt a pile foundation for the new building. It added some costs to the project but it ensures the new building’s structural safety and it’s enabled us to build what was originally envisaged on that site. Once we got above ground, everything went exactly as it was expected to go.”

The new building – which improves and re-models the school’s premises – is constructed in a combination of steel frame as well as traditional brick-and-block. The upper floors contain pre-cast concrete planks.

Working with primary-age pupils who have been permanently excluded from other schools or are missing education, Kennington Park Academy provides alternative school provision and support to pupils from five to 11 years of age - either with an interim school place or in-school support via its Behaviour Support Outreach Service. The Academy aims to reintegrate these children into mainstream primary school or support their transition to secondary school at the end of Year 6.

For pupils with a statement of special educational need, who need additional support, the Academy supports schools, parents and carers with additional support in providing transfer to a specialist provision as soon as possible.

Pupils are referred to the Kennington Park Academy via the Local Authority, which refers students who have had one or more permanent exclusions or who are deemed to be a Child Missing Education (CME). In addition, Lambeth primary schools refer children who are assessed as having needs that cannot, at the time, be best met by their existing school and which impact upon the learning and overall progress of the individual and/or other children.

Consequently, the Academy operates a pupil referral unit (PRU). It also caters for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.

“That’s why the Academy needs two main entrances,” said Alex. “One for children with ASD and one for those attached to the PRU.”

After completing the extra work on the foundations, ME Construction demolished about a third of the original school building – dealing, among other things, with the extensive temporary works associated with the internal alterations to the remaining part of the school – before building a two-storey extension that wrapped around the original structure.

Among the resulting new facilities is a new sports hall and several new teaching rooms. The school also received an extra entrance – now giving it two main entrances. This allows the school to cater more effectively for the two main groups of pupils that it serves.

ME Construction completed its extended project at the school in December 2016. Its progress meant that the Academy could move into its new premises from September 2016 and its sister school, Aurora House, which caters for children with ASD, could occupy its new facilities in January 2017.

Alex added, “Everyone at the school – stakeholders, staff and pupils – is pleased with the way the project has turned out. So, we’re delighted with the result too.

“Moreover, we were pleased with how we coped with the challenge – throughout the project – of the schools’ children being on-site from 9am to 3.25pm every Monday to Friday in term time. Despite the project’s unexpected complications, we were able to ensure that the children’s studies weren’t disrupted as a result of any of the building works.”