Cobham Free School

  • Location

    Cobham, Surrey

  • Client

    Willmott Dixon Construction for the DfE

  • Completion

    P1: 2019, P2: 2021

Existing 1990s office transformed into 21st century all-through school

Cobham Free School was established in 2012 as a single form entry junior school (4 -11 years). Government approval was subsequently gained for a new senior department in 2014, resulting in an all-through school dispersed over several locations in Cobham and beyond. The school sought to accommodate all 920 pupils – years 3-6 (2FE) and years 7–13 (4FE) – within a single location.

The school has a traditional academic curriculum with a strong and celebrated focus on music, sport and its many extracurricular activities.

Design

We commenced the client engagement process with the Department for Education (DfE) in March 2019 and set out to develop proposals for a 4FE junior school and 6FE secondary school, combined into an all-through model on the site of a former office.

Munro House, the existing 1990s office building, consisted of four 2-storey wings emanating from a central building mass with main entrance, plant and core facilities. The wings of the original building were an ideal fit for the majority of school teaching and administration requirements. By making use of the former office building and retaining the existing structure, we were able to provide best value-for-money.

New wings were introduced at either end of the existing building, to accommodate larger dining, music, sport and activity spaces. The new blocks mimic the massing of the original building, but are so placed to create three distinct new courtyard spaces. The southern courtyard provides hard surface breakout from the main hall and dining hall, the central courtyard provides a quiet space with soft landscaping, and the northern courtyard provides the junior hard play area with a shared Netball provision.

The school specialises in music and sport, sharing close links with the Yehudi Menuhin School and Chelsea Football Club. To enhance this specialism, our design makes best use of the open grounds and links to the adjacent rugby club. The design utilises a new lobbied circulation space as an area for a Box Office allowing the school to perform to the wider community.

Construction

With several commercial tenants remaining in situ for the initial construction works, a phased solution was followed. Construction work commenced in June 2019.

  • Phase 1, which involved the refurbishment of 1228m2 of existing office to accommodate a new self-contained 6th Form, completed in August 2019.
  • Phase 2a, which included the refurbishment of 4250m2 of existing office to accommodate teaching facilities for years 7- 11, completed in August 2020.
  • Finally, phase 2b, which featured 2050m2 of new build accommodation for larger Dining, Music, Sport & Activity hall facilities, completed in February 2021.

The design team and contractors worked especially hard to meet this fast-track programme.

Realisation of the building represents the completion of a long (10+ years) journey for the school who are extremely satisfied with the finished result:

We have been delighted to take possession of our new performing arts centre, dining hall and sports block this week and are thrilled with the high quality of the facilities. Along with the refurbishment works completed earlier in the academic year, these buildings will provide a wonderful new junior department, senior school and sixth form for the Cobham community.

The buildings will be enjoyed by many generations of children to come and will make a positive difference to the quality of education we can offer.

Michaela Khatib, Executive Headteacher, Cobham Free School