22 June 2023 Seminars

09:00 - 09:45



Opening Keynote – Welsh Government

Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme Update
Neal O'Leary, Programme Director Sustainable Communities for Learning, Welsh Government


  • Emyr Harries Deputy Director - Education Business Planning and Governance, Welsh Government

  • Neal O’Leary Programme Director - Sustainable Communities for Learning - Welsh Government
10:15 - 11:15

Conference Break & Networking

11:15 - 12:15

Inspiring & Healthy Learning Environments

Educational Environments: Promoting wellbeing & encouraging school culture to develop
Claire Broad, Associate Director – Interior Architecture, Rio Architects, Andrew Baker, Director, Rio Architects & Viv Buckley, Deputy Principal, Bridgend College

In partnership with Bridgend College we will be discussing their new STEAM academy in Pencoed. We will be looking at contributions from the Students that use the facility as well as those with involvement in the development of the landscaping.

Key talking points:
•The creation of ‘non-typical’ areas.
•Importance of visual connection between departments especially in a S.T.E.A.M environment.
•Increased open learning and social settings.
•The inclusion of biophilic design principles, light, air quality, connection to the external environment and inclusion of natural materials.
•The added benefit of Biodiversity; how it’s development and ownership strengthened the school culture.

How and if the above were successful in improving wellbeing and the development of the school culture.

Creating healthy, high performing Welsh schools
Lee Fordham, Architype

What does it take to create inspiring and healthy learning environments for students in Wales that will also protect the planet? Drawing on Architype's experience of working with Welsh timber to create zero carbon Welsh schools, such as the RSAW winning ysgol Trimsaran, we can share learnings and data which looks at how school building performance can be optimised - from the early design stages to once it is occupied, helping the school and students to get the very best from their buildings and saving energy, carbon and cost. For example, our recently completed school in Welshpool is saving £60,000 in energy a year which is now being used to directly provide essential education support.



11:15 - 12:15

New Build Projects

Fitzalan High School
Victoria Slater, Associate Architect, Austin-Smith:Lord & Julie Holmes, Operational Manger - Capital Delivery, Cardiff Council

Case Study on the new build Fitzalan High School project in Cardiff - The brief calls for the provision of a replacement new 11-18 10FE high school including 350 post 16 places to address “D” condition categorisation and “D” categorised sufficiency issues in the local area. This £64m project represents a significant new facility for the pupils, staff and local community. Handing over soon to the LEA, the new school is built in the same area facing the catchment area that it serves. The scheme involved a significant enabling works package to re-provide and enhance leisure facilities for CAVC and other education and community sports stakeholders and helps to create a wider leisure and education masterplan in Leckwith.

A key brief objective was that the design of the new school should provide flexible and adaptable spaces to teach and learn the New Progressive Curriculum. The design delivers these principles and supports the changing role of the teacher as a facilitator of learning. The building is arranged broadly through sectional adjacencies into the new Area of Learning clusters with each cluster supported by a range of space types and sizes, supportive of project based and thematic learning. Three halls are positioned at the heart of the school, arranged in a dramatic sequence of spaces cutting diagonally through the building section, with main hall at ground spilling onto the dining space which is connected through learning steps to a Sixth Form Hall on first Floor, allowing options for accommodating large school events and engaging with Creative Partners and the wider community.

The whole school is accommodated within a single 3-storey ‘superblock’ arrangement, with a simple, efficient form set on a modular design grid providing an excellent framework in which we have created a wide range of exciting, flexible and adaptable learning spaces within.

MIM and Mynydd Isa Campus
Christian Stanbury, WEPCo & James Jones, Sheppard Robson

The Mynydd Isa Campus, set to open in November 2024, will accommodate over 1,300 pupils, aged 3 – 16, in a 113,000 square feet complex, and will be the first school delivered through the Welsh Education Partnership (WEPco) ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​

WEPco is a joint venture between the Development Bank of Wales (Welsh Government) and global investor Meridiam to design, build, finance, operate and maintain education infrastructure in Wales over 25 years‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌utilising the Welsh Government’s Mutual Investment Model (MIM) which sees private firms contracted to build and maintain public assets. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​ ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

This session will explore an overview of the design of the campus, the stakeholder engagement, the challenges encountered on the way, how they were overcome and the lessons learnt.

The session will end with thoughts looking forward as future projects emerge.


  • Gareth Long Director / Education Consultant - the-learning-crowd

12:15 - 13:15

Lunch & Networking

13:15 - 14:15

Inclusive Design

Is there such a thing as a flexible ALN environment?
Catherine Ward, Associate, SEN Lead & Gina Callaghan, Architect, HLM Architects

There is a common thought that ALN schools cannot be standardised or consistent but require a bespoke approach to their design. However, my recent involvement in the design of several special schools, has led me to contemplate if it is possible to create a truly, flexible ALN environment, specifically for ambulant settings. This is especially pertinent and an important consideration for Local Authorities who are charged with providing an ever-increasing number of ALN places, often with a fluid cohort. How can we provide space fast enough to cope and not compromise on the needs of our most vulnerable children, young people and families.

Predicting and delivering the correct type and amount of places for children and young people with ALN is challenging, as the number of pupils with an EHCP continues to rise year on year particular those with Autism and SEMH. This is putting extra pressure on schools and Local Authorities that have a statutory requirement to educate as many pupils within their own authority as possible.

There are broadly speaking 4 types of special school settings which cover the following specialisms:

  • Communication and interaction
  • Cognition and learning
  • Social, emotional and mental health
  • Sensory and physical needs

Some special schools are generic, catering for a wide range of needs, others specialise in a particular area, or a sub-section of a particular area eg. autism or SLCN.

From a designer’s point of view, stand-alone special schools are typically divided by Building Bulletin 104 into ambulant and non-ambulant schools. Which category they fall into, will define the amount and type of both internal and external space they require.

This presentation will focus primarily on the needs of ambulant ALN schools and discuss whether it is possible to design highly flexible, agile ALN environments, that allow schools to deliver high quality education and care whilst allowing Local Authorities to maximise the number of pupil places they are able to provide, for a wide variety of primary needs.

Foghorns to Classrooms – does sound really matter?
Shane Cryer, Concept Developer - Education, Saint-Gobain Ecophon

The world around us is getting noisier and our understanding of the harm caused by low frequency noise is increasing. The percentage of students with ALN is accelerating and a significant proportion of them find a noisy, reverberant  environment hard to be in, let alone focus, learn and memorise. From fog horns to Japanese thatchers, this presentation will cover the design principles every architect should know when it comes to designing an optimal, inclusive and sustainable learning environment for all.


  • Shane Cryer Concept Developer - Education - Saint-Gobain Ecophon

13:15 - 14:15

Refurbishment & Retrofit Projects

The Bute Building
Rob Stevens, Associate Architect, BDP

In 2021 the UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) launched the first ever Net Zero Whole Life Carbon Roadmap for the UK Built Environment. Alongside the vision and policy recommendations for a Net Zero Carbon trajectory to 2050, the roadmap carried a stark message for the sector that buildings and construction make up a staggering 42% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. Whilst there has been some progress in reducing the carbon footprint of new buildings, the elephant in the room is that 80% of the existing UK building stock will still be in use by 2050.

As an industry we must continue to maintain momentum towards designing new buildings which are sustainable and energy efficient, but there is also a vital need for the reuse and repurposing of our existing buildings in lieu of constructing new ones by default. Indeed, with the substructure and superstructure of buildings contributing the largest proportion of embodied carbon, refurbishment and reuse projects can play a crucial role in the future of UK construction in its target to decarbonise the built environment.

BDP’s recently completed retrofit of the Bute Building for the Welsh School of Architecture is a great example of how an existing historic building can be strategically repurposed with light-touch and targeted interventions that not only breathe new life into the building for future generations of architects but also significantly reduce its carbon impact.

Pen Y Dre – Net Zero Carbon in Operation
David Evans, Senior Design Manager, Morgan Sindall & Sophie Nicholls, Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme Manager, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, Nick Marsh, Director, Lawray Architects & Mark Morant, Director, Arda Consulting

Construction has started at the 1970s Pen Y Dre comprehensive school in Merthyr Tydfil, a significant project delivering the first refurbished net zero carbon school in Wales. The scheme was partially funded by the Welsh Government as part of its Sustainable Communities Learning Programme.

Lawray is working with tier one contractor Morgan Sindall to deliver the scheme, which involves 'Enhanced Fabric PV Offsetting' by enhancing the building fabric and services. This includes 5,780m2 of PV required to offset the building’s total carbon emissions in the first year of operation. The project takes a Whole Life Carbon approach and predicts a 71% reduction of overall carbon emissions.

Assumptions were made regarding grid decarbonisation scenarios to 2050, and comparative options were developed, tested against buildability, and evaluated in line with capital and lifecycle costs. School stakeholders, involved in the Carbon Action Group, will be provided training on how to manage the building in-use. We will assist other local authorities, schools and construction teams to understand the steps needed to deliver NZC for retrofit strategies in their existing school estates.


14:15 - 15:15

Conference Break & Networking

15:15 - 16:15

Decarbonisation of Existing Estates

Decarbonising Colleges
Helen Groves, Architect Director, Atkins & Alex Anderson, Head of Estates Development & Facilities, Coleg Gwent College

Colleges have the same decarbonisation ambition as schools, but often with larger estates to manage. Coleg Gwent have recently been undergoing a review of their facilities to determine how to achieve their Net Zero ambitions, in the context of the wider Welsh Government requirements. This presentation will focus on managing the opportunities for estate improvement with a specific focus on vocational buildings, whilst improving the facilities for the particular needs of college users. Atkins have recently completed a feasibility exercise for the College and we will use this as an exploration into the wider themes.

What if retrofit paid for itself?
Romain Richli, Head of Climate and Environment, Bouygues

As “Whole Life” approaches are becoming adopted more and more throughout the industry sectors, the question of retrofitting existing assets including CAPEX & OPEX perspectives has (finally) gained more interest.

These considerations are at the core of our financial and environmental decisions, in Wales, in the UK and globally, where making decisions today impact our tomorrow.

Educational Buildings are perfect use cases to research, test, trial and prove the whole life benefits of energy retrofitting.

Bouygues UK will share with the audience key findings from their most recent studies.


  • Sam Rees Senior Public Affairs Officer - Wales - RICS

15:15 - 16:15

Delivering Sustainable Learning Environments

Cefn Saeson Project
Stuart Moyse, Former Deputy Head of Cefn Saeson & Graham Hirst, Managing Director, Ministry of Furniture

Morgan Sindall Construction were selected to build the £27 million new home for Cefn Saeson Comprehensive School in Neath, South Wales. The school’s 900 pupils have benefitted from 48 state-of-the-art classrooms comprising of creative workspaces, art facilities, and SEND facilities available for students with additional learning needs.

Construction of the new two-storey 97,000 square foot building was completed alongside the existing school, which is being demolished. Ministry were appointed to undertake the loose furniture modelling, specification, supply and installation by Morgan Sindall Construction working closely with Neath Port Talbot Council and representatives at Cefn Saeson School.

The project was lead by Stuart Moyse (client) former Deputy Head at Cefn Saeson Comprehensive who was very keen to ensure the design & build of the new school was fit for purpose with 21st Century learning rather than sometimes outdated building bulletins.

We were able to remanufacture redundant items of furniture from the old school into new items of furniture. For example old laboratory worktops became new dining tables.

In addition to loose furniture supply, Ministry Graphics were commissioned to create custom wall graphics for all subjects throughout the school corridors. In total 20 pieces of bespoke artwork were created spanning all subjects. Our designers presented ideas and collated feedback from all heads of department to ensure we captured the essence of each subject and developed graphics based on this foundation.

As a finishing touch to this outstanding new school we have also printed student artwork direct to ceiling tiles which feature in the central atrium and create a visual statement as you enter the building. The quality of artwork was exceptional!

Pupils and staff moved into the new building in June 2021.

Learning Points

  • How to embrace the circular economy in 21st century education projects to reduce waste, carbon footprint etc
  • How teaching staff and suppliers can add value to projects in their areas of expertise.
  • How best to utilise local supply chain
  • How to maximise community benefits and social value
  • How the built environment effects timetabling and schools efficiencies


  • Graham Hirst Managing Director - Ministry of Furniture
  • Stuart Moyse Educational Building Consultant - SAM Education Building Consultancy Cymru
16:15 - 16:20

Move to final session

16:20 - 17:20

Policy into Practice

Panel session

  • Neal O’Leary, Programme Director – Sustainable Communities for Learning, Welsh Government
  • David Powell, Director of Corporate Estates, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council
  • Crawford Wright, Head of Architecture and Design: Schools and Colleges, Department for Education
  • Andy Dailly, Head of School Building, Scottish Government
  • Áine Cusack, Principal Officer - Schools Capital Appraisal Section, Department of Education, Government of Ireland


  • Helen Groves, Architect Director, Atkins


  • Crawford Wright Head of Architecture and Design: Schools and Colleges - Department for Education
  • Andy Dailly Head of School Building - Scottish Government
  • Áine Cusack Principal Officer - Schools Capital Appraisal Section - Department of Education
  • Neal O’Leary Programme Director - Sustainable Communities for Learning - Welsh Government
  • David Powell Director of Corporate Estates - Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council
17:30 - 17:30

Event Close