Stakeholder involvement was key and continued throughout the project. Asked what they liked about their existing school, students, staff, parents and governors said the major positives were the high level of daylight and views over the city. These findings influenced the design of the new school significantly. Durham Johnston was one of the first schools to use the Design Quality Indicators for Schools tool. The responses from the Fundamental, Added Value, and Excellence profile informed the design.
A triple height fully glazed central street links the facilities and provides breakout learning zones. This feature helped address the school’s fears that there might be a shortfall in teaching space provision within the Building Bulletin 98 model. The main teaching accommodation has been arranged by departments within separate teaching wings. Sliding folding acoustic internal walls allow teaching in one, two, three or four open classroom arrangements. Teachers can explore new teaching methods previously prohibited by the old building. Placing the café at the heart of the school has had a big impact, encouraging social development. Fully glazed staff workrooms allow passive supervision, and the horseshoe desk arrangements are promoting more interaction in class and best use of the space.
The building achieves BREEAM very good. The building management system is used as a teaching aid encouraging pupils to be active in conserving resources. The post-tensioned in-situ concrete frame and floor solution allows larger clear spans avoiding intermediate columns, maximising the potential for any future layout changes. On 18 February 2010 Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited and described Durham Johnston as 'an absolutely brilliant school'.
You can watch a video of the new school here