New Primary School at Glyn-coch

The new school will prioritise health and wellbeing for pupils, staff, and the Glyn-coch community—whose input is at the heart of the design process.

Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council

The project is supported by £15 million from the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Schools Challenge, an initiative that aims to deliver three new schools across Wales that embody environmental sustainability and stakeholder engagement throughout all stages of the design, build and operation.

The new school for Glyn-coch will prioritise health and wellbeing for pupils, staff, and the Glyn-coch community. It will include dedicated community facilities and a Welsh medium childcare provision and will be delivered in partnership with Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council.

Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council have set out the following vision for the project:

To create an educational, community and wellbeing hub which unifies Glyn-coch, meets local needs, and fulfils the aspirations of learners and the community.

Guided by the community

Engagement with the school, its families, and the local community forum will be at the heart of the design process.

The new school will provide an educational environment that’s fit for both the ambitions of its senior leadership team and the requirements of the New Curriculum for Wales. It can also go beyond that and help the community revive its identity, and encourage people of all ages to live healthy, fulfilling lives.

We need a building that reflects our aspirations

Sarah Haggett – Executive Head, The Fern Federation

For the younger generation, the school can provide much-needed sport, social, and educational facilities. Suggestions also include after-school clubs to nurture creative talents and giving the community use of the facilities for recreation, events, and classes, helping maximise the school’s impact locally.

There’s also an opportunity to host discreet support services, the exact nature of which will be determined based on local needs identified through collaboration with members of the community.

Connecting the school with nature

Recognising the nature emergency declared by the Welsh Government, our intention is for the school to achieve Biodiversity Net Gain. Locating the building near to the woodland on the northern edge of the site would create opportunities to connect the classrooms to nature, while emphasising biophilic design throughout the school is in line with WELL v2 and offers many health benefits. A north-south building orientation would also help prioritise passive design principles.

Image developed at competition stage. For illustration purposes only.

Initial ideas for the landscape strategy include outdoor teaching areas around the woodland nature trail, along with a community garden and kitchen which could create a self-sufficient, sustainable food source to encourage healthy eating.

We are also considering water reuse and natural drainage strategies to mitigate against increased rainfall. Done thoughtfully, these can also enrich the school’s ecology while acting as a source of education for the children.

The interior design will complement the wider themes of the project. Natural materials such as timber will be used to contribute towards a calming internal environment within the school.

Image developed at competition stage. For illustration purposes only.

Supporting local labour

To support local investment and employment opportunities, we are looking to procure materials and services from within a defined distance of the site. Our supply chain partners will also be encouraged to prioritise sustainable, low toxicity, and reclaimed materials where possible.

Commitment to accreditation

The new school has a strong commitment to the highest building accreditation standards. We are pursuing Net Zero Carbon, Passivhaus, BREEAM Outstanding and Building with Nature accreditations. Additionally, we hope to deliver the country’s first WELL v2 accredited school, which promotes thoughtful, healthy spaces that aid productivity and help people thrive.

Our whole life approach to Net Zero Carbon considers both embodied carbon and operational energy use over the building’s lifetime, which means understanding the implications of any design decision on the school’s ongoing maintenance.

Using the Passivhaus framework not only helps optimise thermal performance, but also occupant comfort—again for wellbeing benefits—and reduces operational energy in line with Net Zero targets.

A pathfinder project for Welsh school design

In line with the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, the new school for Glyn-coch will have an impact that goes beyond the typical mandate for primary schools, at a time when so many people are struggling with their physical and mental health. The project can act as a pathfinder for education design in Wales and will form part of a case study alongside other Sustainable Schools Challenge projects, with the aim of providing inspiration for the future of the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme.