Takeley Primary School

Using a special Takeley board game to discuss the school’s requirements and wishes, we established the importance of reading that lies at the heart of their building.

The library and story room with outdoor story-telling deck take centre stage in the school. Smaller teaching spaces and book cubbyholes appear throughout the building in alcoves and niches.

The classrooms are clustered around landscaped courtyards that make invaluable outdoor learning and play spaces. The oversailing roofs provide sheltered spots for quiet play and friendly chatter.

Client: Essex County Council / The Learning Partnership Trust
Construction Value: £4.84m
Completion: 2012
Location: Essex

2013 RIBA East Regional Award
RIBA Journal

Education Business

3D cutaway showing the library and courtyards

Understanding how the school community wanted their new building to work informed our early layout and adjacency studies. Our process involved testing different ideas to tease out the best solution. We made models, held workshops with children and staff and talked to parents. Ideas ranging from a super hero’s disco and tigers in the playground to community access and curriculum aims all combined to shape the building and landscape design.

Excellent levels of natural daylighting and ventilation were achieved with generous circulation spaces incorporating small areas for quiet study, group work and reading, giving the whole building a feeling of openness and inclusion. Outdoor learning was an important part of the school brief and this was incorporated into the building design through the landscape courtyards.

“SWA have done a great job and the pupils, staff and parents are incredibly pleased and proud of the new building”

Mark Gaby, Parent Governor

The main school and playground entrances are set back from the site boundary to provide a welcoming threshold to the street for parents and children to meet. This leads to the first of four themed courtyards. Visible beyond the secure line and directly outside the staff areas and library, this space was conceived of as a public facing park garden. For the nursery children, space to run around and dig in the sand was important – this south facing garden became the desert courtyard. Varied planting in vibrant colours and tall grasses with decks and seating form an oasis courtyard to the south west corner for years one and two. A rainwater chute and pond create a tranquil water garden for older children.

A perimeter wall wraps around the building and courtyards forming an enclosure like a traditional farm or Roman villa. Teaching spaces are grouped in pairs for each year group and clustered around the courtyards with colours relating to the landscape beyond. The number of classes facing each courtyard increases as the children grow and move through the school and their world effectively expands. The wider landscape was seen as a series of fields for playing, planting and growing.

A day in the life of Takeley Primary School

The building offers a variety of indoor and outdoor teaching environments from class bases to group study and individual learning. The library is at the heart of the building which was part of the original brief and makes clever use of left over space under the stairs and roof to create unusual and exciting spaces to let the children’s imagination run wild.


Photos by Anthony Coleman and Mark Hadden