Alde Valley High & Sixth Form Centre, Leiston

The Overview

Remodelling works to the existing High School to create 6 new classrooms and library facility, and internal alterations to the existing Middle School to create a new sixth form centre to accommodate an estimated 170 students.

Plaice were appointed as a result of their significant educational experience and strong project management and cost monitoring skill set, in order to transform / create a series of new dynamic spaces and help form a distinct new brand for the school.

The Challenge

The original school operated at 90% capacity of its classrooms and main teaching areas and as such was unable to cope with the proposed two new year groups, which were due to arrive as a result of the School Organisation Review Programme.

As the Middle School site was closing, it was suggested to relocate the existing Sixth Form Centre to the nearby Middle School, which would then free up space at the High School, with an ambition to attract post 16 students to remain / continue their education in Leiston rather than transferring to colleges elsewhere in the county.

Concerns were raised that the existing Middle School building would struggle to shrug off its middle school image and be considered as a serious Sixth Form Centre.

Alde Valley High School & Sixth Form Centre were keen to modernise their image and to create inspirational learning environments, but had a limited budget of £220,000 to deliver both schemes, including asbestos removal at both sites.

The Solution

Due to the limited budget and accommodation requirements, close collaboration was required from the outset with all team members to ensure design solutions proposed were cost effective and provided maximum gain.

In line with this it was agreed early on to concentrate on reconfiguring internal spaces, instead of looking to extend the school, in order to help stretch the budget as far as possible.

An assessment was undertaken of the existing school site and the existing Library was highlighted as an area which was oversized and could be relocated to free up much needed and valuable space for other uses.

It was agreed to relocate the library into the existing Sixth Form Common Room and to convert the existing library into 4 new classrooms. An inclined platform lift was also installed within the existing stairwell to ensure the location of the new library was still accessible for all.

Through reconfiguration of other spaces within the school, two further classrooms were also created.

The original main hall of the existing Middle School was abysmal, with insensitive additions that carved up the space and converted it into nothing more than a dark corridor. By removing these obstacles the hall was restored back to a bright, well proportioned space. New flooring, acoustic baffles, a two tone colour scheme and a full height acoustic ash screen to the Library created a dramatic atrium / social space, which gave a heart for the new Sixth Form Centre and a new lease of life and purpose to the old building.

As part of the works to the Middle School a new Library, ICT suite, Refectory, and Entrance Foyer were also created – turning this building into a modern learning environment.


"Plaice worked with us at a critical stage of rebranding our new 11-18 school. We faced a challenge of a very modest budget and having to work across a split site - one of the key challenges was to change the image of the building that was to comprise our sixth form centre to signal learning in a new era. Plaice provided a quality bespoke service that was very responsive to our needs, that actively sought to involve staff and young people in design, and enabled us to complete a range of building work on time and to budget. Plaice gave senior leaders the additional capacity we needed to achieve many other goals by project managing effectively our building works and dealing directly with contractors."

Mr Ian Flintoff, January 2013