An innovative school designed for young people with cognitive impairment and physical disabilities
Hazelwood School is designed for children and young people aged 2 to 17 who are blind and deaf with cognitive impairment and physical disabilities. Together they are some of the most severely disabled children in Scotland.
To attest to the effectiveness of Hazelwood School from the client perspective, the following text was written by Monica McGeever, the Head Teacher and Client for the duration of the design and construction process, in December 2010:
"The pupils who attend Hazelwood School have severe visual impairments and significant learning difficulties. As a result, they often find it difficult to articulate the impact of the design of their school.
"Staff who work with pupils and parents often talk about the difference that the school has made to these pupils, not only in terms of their education but in terms of the impact it has made to their lives. There is a tangible vibrancy in the school and with this, a highly motivated school community.
"Whilst the impact of educational experiences is often directly related to the quality of the teaching and staff commitment, our building and facilities have a direct effect on staff and pupil motivation. All those involved with our school have a great pride in its achievements as a well designed school and as a vessel for high quality education.
"The school design allows pupils and staff to learn and work in an environment that is harmonious and provides excellent facilities. One of the measures of success of a school like Hazelwood is in the educational achievements of pupils. A well designed school should lead to better development of skills in its pupils but also foster a social community. We see the evidence of this achievement in the confidence of our pupils in moving around the school and succeeding in a range of challenging tasks and activities.
"Hazelwood has a diverse range of pupils and staff and delivers much more than educational activities within classroom bases. This building provides opportunities for learning to take place from the minute pupils enter the building. The open foyer and cafe facilitates social integration experiences. During our recent health week our foyer area was amazingly transformed into a cycle route! There are flexible spaces throughout the school which are multipurpose and often used for musical activities, staff meetings, active play sessions and many other purposes. Decking areas and outdoor spaces allow pupils to access and experience education in a range of environments, not just in the classroom.
"The design process was an authentic and collaborative approach to ensure that the needs of all pupils, teachers, parents and clinicians were considered. Partners in health services, voluntary organisations, local community groups and education specialists were included at different stages. Consideration was taken of the need to reflect sensitive requirements for dimensions of visual, hearing and physical impairments and a range of therapists provided valuable information as to accessibility and specific design requirements of areas such as the hydrotherapy pool, changing facilities and toilets.
"Inclusion means different things to different groups within a community. Success in terms of inclusion for Hazelwood students mean that they have access to facilities within their local community and their school is seen as an important feature of that community. This building has achieved success in integrating with those who live in Dumbreck and in terms of how the school facilitates learning by harnessing the valuable resources within its community. There is a high level of interest about the building from local people and members of staff are asked to provide information to local groups on a regular basis. Pupils from mainstream schools use the unique design and sensory wall to learn about being blind and these groups of pupils come to the school to take part in simulation exercises.
"Staff view the community and surrounding area as an extension of the school and an additional aide to teach valuable life skills to pupils about types of houses, road safety, environmental issues and social skills. As a result, local communities see and know our pupils and are more knowledgeable and accepting of their disabilities.
"Hazelwood pupils, staff and parents are unarguably an important part of our local community and we are all enriched by the school."
The school was delivered on time and to budget.
The children and young people who attend the school will never be able to lead totally independent lives and will require lifetime support. The school needed to harness best practice in design, clinical understanding and educational support. The project was won in competition and procured under a traditional form of architect commission and building contract. The clients, Glasgow City Council, considered that there were some school projects so sensitive that they could not be procured under the PPP route.
Hazelwood cares for children with acute special needs and is sited in a highly sensitive conservation area. The combination of these prime elements coupled with a variety of complex clinical needs made Hazelwood an extremely complex and challenging project, involving detailed pre-build analysis, development and discussion with client groups, teachers and children over a period of 18 months.
That said, the children have the same social needs as others and have parents, carers and educationalists determined to support their aspirations. Alan Dunlop Architect Limited were committed to the design of a place of safety and ambition that would free the teacher and inspire the child. It was a humbling and challenging task.
Hazelwood School has been a real success. The pupils respond well to their new environment and make the most of the school and its facilities. The children are thriving and this is testimony to the love of their parents and the dedication and expertise of their carers and teachers. The school is the built embodiment of this care and the aspirations of the architectural team who responded to the need.
The site was green space in a highly sensitive and established conservation district, bordered by a motorway and with space constraint. The positioning of the building on the site was of critical importance. Although the spatial requirements were large, from the outset the architects' intention was to create a building which would appear non-institutional and sit sensitively within its parkland setting.
It was also the intention of Alan Dunlop to keep all mature trees and respect the amenity of the existing community.
The building gently wraps around three existing beech and lime trees and follows natural contours to offer shelter, protection, garden class rooms and noise reduction. The interior is flooded with ambient light and constructed from naturally sourced materials which will age well; it is highly insulated, naturally ventilated and airtight. The gardens are maturing. It is the architects' hope that the building will settle down within its parkland setting, the larch cladding will grey to the colour of the surrounding tree bark and zinc roof will continue to mottle so that, in time, it will be difficult to know where the schools stops and the gardens begin.