Inpractice Five – Yarm School Masterplan

We’ve already riffed about Yarm in this blog (see our very first post, about the wild world of rain screen cladding) however I thought it’d be nice to give a holistic view of the project.

school river view

school river view

Earlier this year we completed a £20m re-development of Yarm Independent School, in Stockton on Tees. The phased, four year programme of work included the 800 capacity multipurpose auditorium (which was discussed in the Cladding blog), renovated sports facilities and nature trail for nursery children.

The project, which began in 2008, was to develop masterplans for two separate sites belonging to Yarm School. All levels of the School needed upgrades and expansions to accommodate the modern teaching methods and practices expected by the students and their families. The redevelopment was partly funded by a school appeal called, ‘Going for Gold.’

students in the school

students in the school

A tricky part of the development was that both sites proved to be extremely sensitive, with listed buildings, conservation areas, potential flooding, nationally significant archaeology, protected species and asbestos, to name but a few of the roadblocks standing between inception and completion.

However, at AA we’re not one to shy away from a challenge. The difficulties were dealt with through consultation, re-planning and respectful design, which are core values of ours anyway. During all this, the careful implementation of the phased works programme meant the school was able to remain fully operational, even during construction operations.

music room / boy at piano

music room / boy at piano

The environmental credentials of the buildings are strong, yet practical. A 110m deep ground heat source pump provides under floor heating for entire of the new build, while solar panels pre-heat water in the changing and toilet facilities. Extensive daylight penetration and natural ventilation in the classrooms mean that even in the most used parts of school, environmental concerns are still at the heart of the design. 

Yarm--280113-144The Princess Alexandra Auditorium, which was unveiled by its namesake, is a visually stunning building currently (at the time of writing) up for a RIBA North East Award.

The Headmaster, Mr David Dunn, said: “We are extremely honoured to be naming the auditorium after Princess Alexandra. It is most fitting that Princess Alexandra, so well known for her support of the performing arts, agreed to open the facility and gave the blessing for it to bear her name.”



A double height entrance foyer, offers stunning views of the River Tees to those entering the Senior School, while the Pre-Prep School boasts a nature walk, encouraging children to integrate with natural environment. Both sites went through extensive relocations and extensions. The School’s sports facilities received a refurbished underground changing room.

With projects like this it can sometimes be hard to see the end of the tunnel, there’s often so much going on, so many people involved, so many different opinions and requirements that you get lost in it all. However, to look at the finished project, to see it inhabited by happy, young people who are going to use it to learn and grow…well, all the stressful stuff fades away and you’re left with a great sense of pride. That’s one of the reasons why we remain so strongly involved within the education sector, there’s such a feeling of joy when you witness the buildings in use.

children outside the school

All photos copyright to Martine Hamilton Knight

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