Penarth Learning Community brings together spaces for special education needs alongside those of a mainstream secondary school, to create a fully inclusive learning community that enables students and staff to thrive. The flexible facility gives staff and pupils the opportunity to transcend traditional boundaries of teaching and learning, with a bespoke education service for young people and lifelong learners in the neighbourhood. Parents and carers are supported too, with a nearby respite facility.

Design Approach

Through engagement with the client and building users, we developed a design that embraces the idea that every space is a learning space. This is underpinned with the principles of social and environmental sustainability, to maximise the health and wellbeing of everyone who uses the building.

The result is an educational environment that is flexible and adaptable to changes in curriculum delivery, is stimulating for students of all ages and the wider community for after school hours use, and provides opportunities for young people to develop whatever potential they may have for communication, independence and self-sufficiency.

The project provides staff, pupils and parents with opportunities for increased educational integration, including the development of a multi-partnership approach to the delivery of both educational and medical support. The latter is particularly relevant to the pupils attending the SEN schools, some of whom have profound and multiple learning difficulties, requiring intensive therapeutic care.

There is a detached respite facility for both children and adults. This will provide a facility that gives those children who currently stay overnight during the week at Ysgol Erw’r Delyn and Ashgrove a sense of ‘going home’ for the night. In order to enhance the feeling of leaving school for the day, we have developed the architecture to be distinctly different from that of the school with a domestic scale and materiality.

The building was constructed largely by the local supply chain, with apprentices and jobseekers from the surrounding area gaining critical on-the-job training.

“This project was not just about building a fantastic new school, but about getting maximum value for the wider community.”

Jane Wade, Operational Manager Vale of Glamorgan

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