A brand-new school for learners with Additional Learning Needs (ALN), split across two sites in Cardiff, has received planning approval.

The two new builds for The Court School in Cardiff will accommodate additional capacity for pupils across the city, increasing the number of places and providing enhanced facilities adjacent mainstream primary schools.

Renamed ‘Ysgol Cynefin’, the new school will be located in Fairwater and in Llanrumney, each accommodating 36 key stage two pupils. The new buildings have been designed to include ideal special adjacencies, connections, secure lines and requirements.

Both sites will benefit from the adjacent mainstream school locations, and the enhanced opportunities to reintegrate that these present.

Ysgol Cynefin translates to habitat school, reflecting the schools’ integration with the natural environment, which includes outside learning.

Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills, Cllr Sarah Merry said:

“Cardiff is currently embarking on our most radical transformation of additional learning needs provision seen in recent years. The new Ysgol Cynefin is part of the significant plans already well underway, to address the shortfall in places required across the city.”

The orientation of both schools has been informed by passive principles, with pitched roofs making optimal use of daylighting, stack ventilation and solar photovoltaic panels. They are also designed to include green roofs, rain gardens and a variety of spaces externally for pupils and staff to learn, explore and relax.

The interior colour palettes are based on neutral tones, which have a calming effect of children on the autism spectrum. Secondary palettes of greens (staff & admin), orange/yellows (shared areas) and blues (teaching spaces) are inspired by natural elements and indicate the functionality of space.

HLM Architects Project Lead, Angela Sheppard, commented:

“Our team have worked closely with the staff to fully understand the needs of both them and the pupils, creating an environment which is enhanced by connection to the natural environment.

Providing much needed additional learning spaces in Cardiff

Designing for Additional Learning Needs is immensely rewarding. These two new sites of Ysgol Cynefin will provide much-needed additional learning spaces for children in the Cardiff area, in an environment and with the support that they need to flourish.”

The scheme forms part of the ALN Transformation Programme from 2021, which aims to create sufficient specialist places in the Cardiff maintained sector for all children and young people unable to access learning in a mainstream placement. It is also part of Cardiff Council’s Band B of their Sustainable Communities for Learning programme, with BREEAM ‘excellent’ a minimum requirement for the new buildings.


Subject to planning and procurement, construction of Ysgol Cynefin is expected to start in Autumn 2023.

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