Plans have been unveiled for the first new school within the Governments Academy Programme the Business Academy in Bexley designed by Foster and Partners. Academies are a new kind of secondary school initiated by the Government and supported by entrepreneurial sponsors from the commercial sector, who contribute 20 per cent of the initial capital costs. The Business Academys sponsor, David Garrard, is donating in excess of 2 million, the remainder is provided by the Department for Education and Skills.
Due to open in September 2002, the school has already been made the first choice by more than 200 parents for their 11-year-olds. The Academy replaces a school that attracted only half as many first-choice applications in recent years.
Offering a free education of the very highest standard, the Academies will be superbly equipped state-of-the-art environments. They will promote a broad, relevant and innovative curriculum with a special emphasis on one subject area. The Business Academy in Bexley will specialise in business studies and will include its own mini stock exchange and trading floor to give its students a first taste of City Trading.
The Academies aim to be recognised for educational excellence, providing opportunities for all pupils to fulfil their potential, whatever their ability. They are committed to fostering good citizenship, self-reliance and personal responsibility. Taking a central role within their communities, they will share their facilities with other schools and the local neighbourhood. The school will be open, transparent and compact to encourage integration, communication and cross fertilisation between teachers and students of all ages.
The Business Academy is based around three courtyard spaces devoted to business, art and technology, giving access to all teaching spaces; there are no corridors. The courtyards promote visual connections between classrooms on all levels. The flexible structure allows partitions to be moved to change the sizes of teaching areas or adapt them for other uses. The compact design together with a unique double-layered facade with integral shading will reduce heat loss thus minimising the buildings energy use.
It is likely that the Business academy will be the first "cradle to university" school in the UK. Legislation is currently before Parliament to allow the inclusion of a primary school and a nursery with crche, to provide a continuity of education not available anywhere else in the non-fee-paying sector in the UK.
Foster and Partners is designing two other Academies the Capital City Academy in Willesden, which will specialise in sports and is due to open in September 2003; and the Compton Sports and Enterprise Academy in Ealing, scheduled to open at the end of 2004.
Harris Grant Associates