Skip to main content

Cliffe Hill Primary School

Halifax, UK


project overview

Inclusive and accessible education design, bringing community and school together

Cliffe Hill Primary School has accessibility and inclusivity at its heart, always putting the pupil’s experience first. A landmark project for Calderdale Council, replacing dated and unsafe facilities, it sets itself apart from other schools in the area.

Providing education for over 200 pupils, with a dedicated Autistic Spectrum Disorder Unit and community room all under one roof.

The local community formed a key part of the stakeholder group, being invited to consultation events at the school and influencing the design process. The strong relationship between the community and the design team, served to bridge the gap between the school and wider community.

The building has had a tremendously positive effect on the learning taking place and all parties are extremely proud of their new surroundings.”

Lindsay Lomas

Cliffe Hill Head Teacher


Prioritising the pupil experience at every level

Following on from a feasibility study for the replacement of the existing Cliffe Hill Primary School, Calderdale Council saw this project as an opportunity to do something different and create a school unlike any other under their control, with design at the forefront of the brief.

The existing school, a 1970’s build was suffering from a number of potentially serious structural defects. The Council had been advised that the school only had a limited number of years left before it would have to be closed on safety grounds.

In addition the early years were housed in a number of separate temporary style structures and it was the vision of the Council and School Governing body to house the full school complement under one roof. Which would not only bring more children to the school but also improve the experience of existing pupils and have a positive impact on performance, behaviour and results.

We worked collaboratively with the pupils, staff and governors of the existing school and the wider community, to better understand their needs, through workshops and hosting precedent visits to similar buildings to give them a view of size and scale.


Design Concept

Making use of interesting, challenging topography

We prioritised making the process as inclusive as possible, including minimising disruption to the children during construction by retaining the pre-existing school for the duration. This presented us with a challenge - where to position the new school on a sloping site with very limited options.

The area of the site immediately inside the site entrance was chosen both due to it being relatively flat, in comparison to other areas but also due to the safety and security it would provide – with excellent visibility over those entering and leaving the premises.

Taking a curved form, the school is stepped in two locations on the ground floor, overcoming the steeply sloping nature of the site and ensuring everyone has full access to all the spaces.

Whilst also creating fantastic views from the building which wraps around a large secure external courtyard, adaptable for a range of activities. Gently curved corridors slope gradually to overcome the topography, supporting the pupils and guiding them naturally around the space.

This exciting new school was built on a successful working relationship between Calderdale Council and AHR. There is no doubt that AHR have delivered a successful design outcome that meets the educational vision of the school and is a wonderful place for young people to learn.”

Simon Blackburn

Schools Organisation Officer, Calderdale Council

Design and innovation

Using design to influence the curriculum

Straightforward sustainable solutions are the foundation for the design, not only benefitting the environment but also acting as a useful addition to the curriculum for Cliffe Hill pupils. The teachers actively promoted these issues in class and the children make a point of showing them to visitors to the school.

An abundance of natural light created by the fully glazed circulation space which wraps around the central courtyard ensures the health and wellbeing of the staff, children and visitors is fully supported. The amount of natural daylight provided is so high and evenly distributed that artificial lighting is barely required during the daytime.

All main teaching spaces also have natural ventilation, with large openable windows at the front of each classroom and ventilation chimneys on the roof.

A sedum roof has been included above the single storey element of the school. This is visible from the main external play area and first floor spaces.

In addition to this, superior insulation thicknesses have been detailed to the facade of the building which ensures that statutory U-value requirements are comfortably exceeded.

Key information

Project summary


Halifax, HX3 8TW


Calderdale Council






BREEAM Very Good


2,185 m2


210 pupil spaces
Autism Spectrum Disorder Unit
Community room
External courtyard


RIBA Yorkshire Awards 2012
Winner - White Rose Award


Meet the team behind the project


Interested in
learning more?

Learn more about 'Cliffe Hill Primary School' and other projects by reaching out to one of our team

Get in touch