SEN School, Manchester

At the edge of New Islington this school provides an holistic education for children with specific mobility, health, emotional and behavioural needs.

The school is at the centre of the community and is designed to operate for the children during the day and open up to community use in the evening. Facilities include a therapeutic pool, soft play areas, community café/ school lunch facility, nursery school, sensory exploration room and spacious classrooms. Clear orientation of spaces facilitates the children’s independence. Coloured and textured floor level materials and embossed wall reliefs guide children to where they need to be. Vast roof voids provide indirect light into the school, making it feel welcoming and clean.

The faceted nature of the structures mark their place within a fragmented community, rent apart and forced together again repeatedly throughout the last century. Recently flattened, the area has been re-designed and forms a new start for residents old and new. The new school marks the fragmentation; rather than gluing together the pieces, each element has been left separate, with the activities carried out around the site acting as the glue – bringing people together.

Environmentally the school is exceptional. Set amongst large grounds, which provide sports facilities encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, the heating system uses the warmth and coolth of the earth to moderate the temperature of the buildings through under floor heating. Owing to its setting a reed bed water purification system reduces the loads on local sewers from waste water. Biodiversity is encouraged – several of the faceted roofs are ‘green’, bird and bat boxes adorn the structures, photovoltaic panels collect the suns energy to reduce energy consumption and bills.

It is accessible in all senses of the word and is a rock for the local and wider communities to rely on and make use of at all times of the day, week and year.

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