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Christ the Word Catholic School

Rhyl, Wales


project overview

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.

The facilities at the school are superb and fit for 21st Century learning - a building that pupils and staff should be proud of.”

Huw Hilditch-Roberts

Lead Member for Education, Children's Services and Public Engagement Denbigshire County Council


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.



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.

Key Information

Project summary


Rhyl, North Wales, LL18 2EU


Denbighshire County Council






BREEAM Excellent


8,080 m2


920 pupil places


ICE Wales Cymru George Gibby Award 2021

British Construction Industry Awards 2021
- 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


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