Modular Eco-Classroom for Outdoor Learning at Courthouse Green Primary School
Courthouse Green is a part of the Triumph Multi Academy Trust whose core business is to put learners first. They wanted to support outdoor learning with a new purpose built space in their forest schools area. This is the second building from TG Escapes at the school.
We interviewed Headteacher Sarah Malam about her project.
What is the background to your building project?
Sarah Malam: We wanted to develop provision for all the children to benefit from outdoor learning. We have a garden area here – our forest school area – which has a gazebo within it. However, lots of the forest schoolwork that the children do is about risk taking and open-ended learning experiences. Some of this has taught units which are great for being outside but others which benefit from having an indoor environment. So, when the weather is really bad, they can be inside doing their knot work or some work using tools, so they can learn a skill together and then take it outside.
The idea behind having an additional building was about making sure that everything we have in school is multi-purpose and that everyone can access. So, it might be used by the forest school area because it’s right by the forest school area, but it might also be used by anybody wishing to do something outside as a starting point for learning and then children being sent off on tasks and research to do themselves.
How did you integrate it into the outside space? What thought went into the layout and the connection to the outdoors?
SM: Well, historically there has always been a building on that site. It was originally an outdoor garage for the caretaker’s car when the old school was in situ then it was used as an outdoor store. So, it made sense that if we were to use it to promote outdoor learning then it would be near our forest school area so that we could have easy access to it while using the provision, and that we’d also have storage for all the equipment that forest school children use. Making it out of wood made sense because that obviously feels environmentally more akin than to the area in which the children are working, than concrete.
What process did you go through when choosing a provider of the building?
SM: Well, you have to do procurement processes when you’re using public money. So, we quickly got on and looked at other contractors out there to see what’s happening in quick building methods. Then the pandemic hit; then the challenges of getting building materials and the challenges of getting planning permission all slowed the process somewhat.
However, we then decided to go with a modular options that could be mostly pre-made offsite to minimise the time onsite. This was a real driver for us to reduce the impact on the children.
What made you select TG Escapes?
SM: Reputation. Price. We’ve worked with TG Escapes before and liked what they did and the way they worked. We knew their reputation was a positive one within our area and the price, and their ability to work reasonably within our budget, was making it a more affordable solution.
How did you find the process overall?
SM: Very positive. We were in a position of challenge where it felt like there were a lot of limitations around what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it and they supported us through it really well.
Now the building is in use, how would you describe the product quality?
SM: Very good. And we have another TG Escapes building onsite (built 2015/2016) and we’d say exactly the same about that.
What about overall customer service?
SM: Very positive. There were a few issues towards the end, not with the building itself, but with the condition of the ground around the site, which they came and rectified.
What sort of impact are you expecting the building to have on your setting?
SM: Additional space within a big school is always going to be a benefit. The biggest one is that of forest school provision, which we believe is really important for our children. It helps to promote their self-esteem, helping them take safe risks and explore outside which many of them don’t have access to at home. To do that safely, irrespective of the weather, really appeals to us. It is key.
How has the building been received by staff, students and parents?
SM: That’s been really positive though we’ve been limited in how we’ve used it last term. We have also used it as changing rooms for our onsite pool facility, in June, so it was brilliant for that.