Wates Construction overcomes Covid challenge to deliver new Gateshead SEN school | Wates

Wates Construction has completed its first project for Gateshead Council with the delivery of a £12m new school for children with special educational needs (SEN).

The new Gibside SEN School saw Wates complete all construction services, including structural, M&E and landscape design. Its build allows the relocation of 177 primary school pupils and more than 100 staff from the existing school, which was previously split over two sites in Blaydon seven miles away and Whickham six miles away.

Its innovative design was created by local Gateshead architect Julia Soulsby, and features a single-story structure with a complex roof across 10 different levels, using four different roof types. Internally, it comprises of 21 different classrooms, a hydrotherapy pool, sports hall, dining and assembly hall, an internal courtyard and sensory rooms.

The project was procured through SCAPE Construction, a direct award framework designed by the UK’s leading procurement authority to drive collaboration, efficiency, time and cost savings on construction projects.

As part of this, delivering social value is a priority. Over the course of the build Wates provided 22 work experience weeks, spent £71k with Social Enterprises, ensured 89 per cent of labour was from within a 40 mile radius, and provided employability workshops for 224 local people.

In addition, Wates held an employability and training event at HMP Northumberland for 11 prisoners due for release within the following six months. All were located within 10 miles of the Gibside site, giving them vital skills to build a career upon release, with one ex-offender subsequently given a position with Wates.

Construction began in October 2019, and despite potential delays due to Covid-19 and adverse weather conditions at the start of the build, the site was delivered on time and to the utmost safety, with a socially distant handover ceremony on February 15th.

David Wingfield, business unit director of Wates Construction in Yorkshire & North East, said:

The handover of this project is a fantastic achievement for all involved. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, our teams and partners have worked tirelessly and used huge amounts of initiative to deliver this state-of-the-art facility, within budget and to the specific design requirements of the school.

This project’s success is not only limited to the building, but in the way it has maximised its benefit to the community. The council made it clear this build should provide as many training and employment opportunities as possible. Whether through apprenticeships, career events, supporting local supply chains or social enterprises, we have continuously tried to make sure our work is leaving a positive lasting legacy for Gateshead.

At the heart of this success was a genuine one-team approach between ourselves, the client’s in-house design and delivery teams and the supply chain where there was meaningful early collaboration from pre-construction right through to completion. It is a testament to what can be achieved when we work together and I want to sincerely thank all who made it possible.”

Councillor Haley, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said:

We have an increasing need for specialist education school places in Gateshead and I’m very proud that we’re now able to offer a purpose built, state-of-the-art school, which has been designed around the needs of children aged 3-11 years. This new school will bring additional benefits to some of our most vulnerable children and ensure that they continue to get an outstanding start in education.

I’d also like to thank Wates Construction Group and the project delivery team, who despite facing many additional challenges due to the ongoing pandemic, have worked hard to ensure the children can move into the new school as planned.”

Mark Robinson, group chief executive at SCAPE, said:

The new school will have a positive and lasting impact on the lives of SEN children and their families right across the Gateshead community. Not only has the project been delivered on time and within budget, but the commitment to maximising social value will ensure that the school leaves a lasting legacy for the local area – a true testament to the project teams at Wates and Gateshead Council.”

The Gibside project marks the first completion in a number of primary schools currently being delivered by Wates, including one in Huddersfield and a further five in the North West, which are all using modern methods of construction (MMC) extensively through their builds.

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