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Whiteheath Infant & Nursery School, London Borough of Hillingdon, by The Architects Practice

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Updates to this west London primary school show how multiple problems can be solved with one thoughtful solution, writes The Architects Practice’s Simon Foxell

Across the borough from West Drayton Primary School, on the outskirts of Ruislip, Whiteheath Infant & Nursery School faced different problems.

A successful and popular local school, it was housed in a tiny, system-built 1970s building. Although much extended and with cabins in the playground, it was far too tight, and 23 per cent smaller than recommended in Building Bulletin 99. A determined new head, Chris Weaving, was appointed with the explicit task of dealing with this issue and easing the pressure on both pupils and staff.

She approached several practices, and in 2005 we prepared an initial masterplan. After lengthy negotiations with the Environment Agency to mitigate the impact of the extension on potential flooding in the area, the new extension was opened in 2011.

Work included extensive remodelling of front-of-house areas of the existing building to provide a new entrance and better staff facilities, as well as complete new accommodation for Year 2. An L-shaped block was placed at the front of the original building in an area of large, mature trees, creating an internal courtyard. The building diverts arriving children, parents and visitors along a covered walkway leading to the new entrance that also provides somewhere for them to comfortably wait at pick-up time.


The classrooms themselves are arranged around a shared project space containing all the wet activities. This high space also assists ventilation in the individual classrooms. The classrooms are lit and ventilated from clerestory windows and their ceilings provide good thermal mass. Low-level windows provide views out, while discouraging direct views in, and there are additional openable panels for ventilation.

The project has brought clarity to the school, a new frontage and, for the first time, teaching spaces that meet standard guidance. The school is delighted to have moved out of the playground cabins into a high-quality teaching and learning environment. It is a pity that local authorities are once again building ‘temporary’ accommodation in playgrounds to cope with growing pupil numbers, when they need fully considered extensions such as this, that solve multiple problems with a single, thoughtful solution.

Simon Foxell was lead client design advisor to Birmingham City Council’s BSF Academies and Primary Capital programmes 2007-10


Start on site April 2010
Completion January 2011
Gross internal floor area 337m2
Type of contract JCT Intermediate Building Contract 2005, Revision 2 2009
Total cost £622,000 (extension), £110,000 (alterations to existing), £30,000 (landscape)
Cost per square metre £1,850
Client Whiteheath Infant & Nursery School
Architect The Architects Practice
Structural engineer Jane Wernick Associates
Main contractor MP Building

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