Cedarwood Primary School, Kesgrave

The Overview

Phase 1 – Creation of new 210 place primary school (single form entry) + 30 place Reception Class including external works. School site acquired to allow expansion to 315 places in the future.

Phase 2 – Due to expansion of the Grange Farm housing estate and demand for places, the school was enlarged to accommodate 420 pupils + Nursery provision + construction of independent 3 Bears Playgroup building.

The Challenge

Phase 1 - Former farmed field, the acquired site sat well away from established housing. Client brief called for the design to embrace sustainable materials in its construction and renewable energy where appropriate. Built under a Partnering Framework.

As always, extremely tight-budget, design constraints linked to Dfe restrictive space ratio’s for teaching to non-teaching spaces hampering internal planning.

Phase 2 - School grounds never intended to accommodate 420 pupils + Nursey + Playgroup. Significant challenges associated with working in live school and the need to carefully phase works. Extension of external hard play area to meet space requirements within a very tight site.

The Solution

Phase 1 - New Primary School opened in September 2001 by HRH Princess Alexandra.

Aesthetically, school designed as a modern barn to reflect the sites heritage and location. Its position dictated by the presence of an ancient oak, complete with resident barn owl. Facades decorated in cedar boarding, using pattern to illuminate / provide each elevation with a distinct image. Building constructed around a steel frame with highly insulated timber framed external walls. On the playground sides, the walls are constructed in cavity brickwork to minimise damage. The Mono- pitched roofs lined with an extensive green sedum blanket, announce the schools environmental ambitions and green credentials. To encourage cycling to school, the building had a secure integrated cycle shed, the most expensive bike shed in Britain.

The school was very much a building for the community. The main hall is located on the front elevation, adjacent to the car park, to visually connect with the local community and encourage use of the facilities in out-of-school hour’s activities. The front of the school is topped by a continuous glazed clerestory light, acting as a beacon / marker in the landscape.

Phase 2 - Works to extend the Grange Farm housing estate had begun in earnest. To meet predicted pupil numbers, the County Council agreed to expand the school. This extension allowed the creation of a two-form entry primary school for pupil aged 5 – 11 years + nursery and early years provision. The existing building has been extended on the North and East Elevations, to reinforce the linear nature of the original building. A unique feature was the addition of a first floor play deck / teaching platform concealed behind high parapets. A fine carved owl sculpture adorns the building.

The school has since become swamped by housing, spatially poorly planned. This has resulted in an inability to see both ends of the building, and therefore detracting from the schools civic presence when viewed on approach, entrance and arrival.


The school was awarded a Civic Trust Award for its architecture and landscape design.