Christ the Word Catholic School
Catalyst for local change to improve faith-based education in Rhyl
Christ the Word, the first school in Wales designed to reflect the findings of the Donaldson report, provides an innovative and transformational, faith-based education.
Forming part of the wider 21st Century School programme, the new 920-pupil facility combines the pre-existing primary and secondary to create a true through school experience. In the heart of the community, the through school ensures all students have equal opportunities and are prioritised at every level.
Leading the way
Funded by Denbighshire County Council (DCC) in partnership with the Welsh Government, the new school sought to mirror the success of the existing primary whilst responding to the secondary school’s poor reputation and low intake.
The school was to be the first step, paving the way to transform pupil’s education, the curriculum and address anticipated changes in leadership.
With the ambition to significantly increase attendance applications, taking influence from the Donaldson report, we focused on how bringing the two schools together could ease the transition for pupils through their school lives. Replacing the existing 1950’s and 80’s facilities, the new school also provided an opportunity to give students, at all levels, a broader educational experience.
Welcoming, positive space
We created a familiar and supportive space to guide pupils through their schooling and acknowledging the challenges associated with the transition from primary to secondary education.
The school is organised around two wings – the ‘arms’ that welcome people inside, one for the younger pupils and one for the older ones.
All subject zones and age groups are treated as equally important, reflecting a blended curriculum learning model. We recognised the different needs of each year group. Whilst also providing children with opportunities to try different subjects and activities, that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to in a separate primary or secondary school.
All learning zones are designed to be flexible, grouped around the central avenue to promote use of shared spaces across ages and disciplines.
The centrally located library encourages use through openness and accessibility. With large glazing giving passers-by full display of learning and activities in the building, emphasising the position of the school in the community.
A connection to the wider community is further forged through the inclusion of the chapel which is open to the public.
DESIGN AND INNOVATION
Exterior and interior inspiration
Located on a flood plain, alongside an 800mm raised existing historic building, the site’s topography proved complex.
We took advantage of the site’s natural axis to draw and direct pupils, teachers and visitors easily into the building, whilst affording people excellent views throughout and connecting the school with the outside community.
We looked to the local community to inspire us and our design.
Taking reference from nearby Manchester poplar trees and a chapel’s stained-glass windows we brought the interior design to life through texture, mosaics and super graphics.
Above and beyond
Required to achieve BREEAM Excellent to secure funding, Christ the Word goes above and beyond the typical sustainability requirements of a school at 51 kw hrs per square metre.
We saw how passivhaus principles could be applied to school design - embracing natural lighting and significantly exceeding air and thermal targets.
The project prioritised working locally, utilising many local suppliers, along with a predominantly local labour force. The investment in local education will see people’s prospects and life chances in Rhyl improve, encouraging a love of learning and better outcomes, which in turn will lead to a more skilled workforce in the region, with the skills required for 21st century employment.
Rhyl, North Wales, LL18 2EU
Denbighshire County Council
920 pupil places
ICE Wales Cymru George Gibby Award 2021
British Construction Industry Awards 2021
Shortlisted - Social Infrastructure Project of the Year
LABC Awards 2020
Shortlisted - North Wales Best Public Service or Educational Building
Insider Wales Property Awards 2020
Shortlisted - Development of the Year
Sitting on the site of a former Orb Mill, the new build’s 5-storey form takes on a modern interpretation of the mill vernacular with a pleasant coating of red brick.
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