The North East of England has a historic issue with retaining talent. Often, the most talented and highly skilled graduates will leave the region after graduating, rather than staying to develop their careers and create a life there. This teacher training hub at Sedgefield Community College seeks to address this. Our challenge was to design a facility that would train graduates for vocational work, while connecting them with career opportunities in local schools.
We needed to design an exceptional learning environment within a limited space, making intelligent use of the available footprint. The brief centred on three main spaces which were key to the project: an auditorium, a set of teaching spaces, and a flexible social space.
The new building challenges conventional wisdom about how space should be used: the limited footprint forced us to consider every possible solution to each design problem we faced, turning what many would view as a constraint into a strength.
We treated the three key spaces as separate volumes, with the large auditorium anchoring the building as a solid form, its interior illuminated by roof lights. The social space draws flexibility from a double-height atrium, and gives trainee teachers a place to relax, interact and study. Sitting between these two other volumes and overhanging at first-floor level, the teaching spaces create a colonnade framing the entrance, giving the hub a welcoming appearance and breaking down the distinctions between interior and exterior space.
We are delivering the project as Corde, our multidisciplinary offering with KJ Tait and AKS Ward. This has allowed us to challenge structural norms in the design: for instance, we omitted purlins from areas of lightweight roofing, specifying a deeper metal deck.
We’ve also taken a holistic approach to sustainability, using a fabric-first approach to design the hub with a low-energy ethos from the outset. The auditorium is topped with a green roof to improve biodiversity and mitigate flood risks, while natural ventilation and wind-catchers ensure that the interior spaces are comfortable without using large amounts of energy.
The teacher training hub will be a valuable resource for young professionals in the North East, and will help to give talented graduates a foothold in the region. Great teaching starts with great teacher training: the new hub at Sedgefield Community College will provide an environment that allows that great training to take place, fostering the next generation of teachers and ultimately benefiting the next generation of schoolchildren.
“Sedgefield will soon have a truly inspirational facility where student teachers, many of whom will take up posts at Laidlaw Schools Trust Academies, will be able to learn from some of the most talented and successful teachers in the North East.”– DAVE DAVIES, DIRECTOR OF SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT (SECONDARY) AT THE LAIDLAW SCHOOLS TRUST