24th Aug 2018 — From nursery to ‘planting out’

From nursery to ‘planting out’

“Brick islands in a lead-colored sea… the board-schools… Lighthouses, my boy! Beacons of the future! Capsules with hundreds of bright little seeds in each, out of which will spring the wise, better England of the future.”1


Sherlock could well have been describing Parliament Hill School, which is a former Victorian Board school built in the late 19th century, and we are currently involved in its re-design, extension, and refurbishment. We are also working on its neighbour William Ellis school, which was built later in 1937, and we are delighted to be part of their continuing story.

The ‘bright little seeds’ Sherlock celebrates require very particular conditions to grow steadily healthy and strong. Schools and classrooms provide the growing conditions for a large proportion of children’s early lives, and as architects we are concerned with how these physical learning spaces impact pupil performance. The ‘Clever Classrooms’ report, published in 2015, is encouraging as it shows how relatively small changes to a classroom’s layout, display, or colour can have significant effects on pupil performance. 2 Our interventions build on these research findings, stretching budgets as far as possible to achieve the greatest cost-benefit.

Our design at Parliament Hill School uses the School’s colour scheme to highlight existing architectural features and bring new vibrancy to the Art & Design rooms. New ply teaching walls, made of natural and robust materials, facilitate the storage of teaching materials along with the presentation and creation of art and design work. These features were designed in collaboration with teachers to ensure they reflect their pedagogy. We restored the functionality of the various existing windows, employing environmental modelling software to design optimal ventilation, which is fully controllable by teachers and students. Graceful new lighting compositions create ideal light levels and bring a dynamic and exciting element to the classrooms. In William Ellis School, light touch tempered canopies will transform the ventilation strategy in the main hall, whilst providing new circulation and dwelling spaces for staff and pupils.


  1. The Adventure of the Naval Treaty, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1893.
  2. Report published in 2015 by Barrett, Zhang, Davies, and Barrett


Project Architect: Katharine Terry

Article: Jack Bennett