Breathing new life into education

North Yorkshire Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP)
Yorkshire, UK
At a glance

A rebuild and refurbishment of several of the UK’s most dilapidated schools was as much about community as it was about smart engineering.

What did the client want to achieve?

The Priority Schools Building Programme was a targeted investment by the UK Government to rebuild and refurbish school buildings in the worst condition across the country.

By delivering state-of-the art schools, the aim was to provide children with an environment to inspire and enhance their learning experience.

Schools were batched geographically with North Yorkshire comprising seven new secondary schools situated across three local authorities - Bradford Metropolitan District, Kirklees and North Yorkshire County Councils.

Many of the existing schools suffered from leaking roofs, structural frame degradation with windows that no longer closed. They had poor thermal insulation, high levels of glare and associated solar gain. These issues were exacerbated by poor physical circulation, large school perimeters that needed to be constantly monitored and with poor educational, faculty and social facilities.

By constructing seven new buildings – all delivered on the sites of existing operational schools, our team would reduce pressure on the local school system, improve pupils’ wellbeing as well as working conditions for teachers; improve the carbon emissions of each school and support wider benefits from preventing adverse educational outcomes, such as less crime, truancy and exclusions.

How did we use the power of our experience?

Laing O’Rourke has a proven track record in the Education, Science and Research sector. We have worked with a range of education and research clients to develop award winning facilities within budget and on-time and over the last ten years, our UK team has delivered 54 new schools.

Our offsite manufacturing capabilities, along with research and development, has paved the way for innovative building methodologies, which in turn has allowed us to work within stringent criteria and develop a standardised ‘kit of parts’ schools solution that can be rolled out across similar projects. Our place on two government frameworks allows us to regularly engage with the Department of Education to understand how we can build better, faster and help achieve UK net zero.

Yorkshire, UK

North Yorkshire Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP)

Yorkshire, UK

North Yorkshire Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP)

What was unique/challenging?

The seven schools which ranged in pupil capacity from 727 to 1,884 were all delivered on the sites of existing operational schools which brought with it the challenge of maintaining rapid progress while respecting the educational needs of the live establishments. This required meticulous planning, communication and flexibility.

Our brief was to provide cost-effective, modern, robust facilities which were energy efficient and easy to maintain. As well as reducing carbon emissions, and meeting energy targets, our offsite manufacture-led solution has improved conditions for pupils and staff and increased retention rates.

How did we deliver certainty?

Our DfMA solution allowed us to minimise disruption with less deliveries, using only a third of the onsite resource required for a traditional process – enabling a quieter and quicker build. The structures were erected in just 12 weeks, and 60% of the build elements were manufactured offsite by at Laing O’Rourke’s Centre of Excellence for Modern Construction. As the facilities manager and equity investor, Laing O’Rourke has been able to monitor and record the operational performance of these schools – enabling us to reduce energy consumption, ensure robust finishes, and decrease lifecycle costs.

Understanding stakeholder requirements, our project team established good relationships from the dialogue period early in the bid stage and used this engagement to improve our solution. We took the time to understand the aims of the Education Skills Funding Agency and the individual schools, which we were then able to reflect in each design. This included a programme-wide reviewable design data sign-off process, clearly defining cost-neutral choices to a set palette of colours and finishes for facades, floor vinyl, IPS, cubicles and fittings, furniture & equipment. We used BIM visualisations and met stakeholders’ operational requirements by offering choice on sports hall use and data point locations along set trunking runs.


Pupils will benefit from these new, purpose-built facilities


to 13,538m2 GIFA


of building elements were supplied and manufactured by the Laing O’Rourke Group

By delivering smarter and directly, our ability to self-deliver facilitated fast and efficient construction through closer control of our M&E and concrete structures specialists, Crown House Technologies (CHt) and Expanded. Expanded led design and manufacture of a suite of offsite-manufactured structural concrete products, replacing the construction process with an installation methodology and reducing onsite working-hours by 50% compared to traditional steel-framed school construction. This reduced health and safety risks, while delivering high-quality, robust finishes. CHt designed and manufactured all the MEP modules for the schools, including multi-service vertical risers, horizontal service distribution modules, prefabricated boiler houses, modular wiring and lighting rafts in the classrooms.

Considering our impact on local areas, engagement with the existing schools at all locations was constant throughout, with site tours organised for teachers, pupils, ESFA engineering staff, caretakers and the wider local community. Safety talks were given which spelled out the dangers of a building site, and we attended school assemblies to update on progress and career opportunities. Sites also facilitated the pupils to paint on their side of the site dividing hoardings. Aware of our impact on live school sites, we scheduled deliveries outside of school start and finish times, also agreed with neighbours, to minimise any disruption.

The seven completed schools were:
  • Beckfoot Upper Heaton, Bradford
  • Samuel Lister Academy, Bradford
  • Oakbank, Bradford
  • Belle Vue Boys School, Bradford
  • Harrogate High School, North Yorkshire
  • Whitcliffe Mount, Kirklees
  • All Saints Catholic College, Kirklees