Surgo Construction, one of the region’s leading building contractors, has been appointed to the £2.6m West Newcastle Academy project.

The site, which is on land south of Armstrong Road in the west end of the city, was previously occupied by terraced houses.  These were demolished in 1982 and since then the site has lain dormant.

Surgo has now commenced site preparation work to enable the project to begin and is anticipating a completion date that will allow the academy to become fully operational in readiness for the start of the autumn 2017 term.

Currently operating from temporary buildings within the Benwell Nature Park, the new West Newcastle Academy will cater for approximately 200 Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 pupils, offering a novel learning environment where children spend two days each week learning away from the classroom – in ‘forest school’, at the beach, or visiting museums, farms and parks for example.

The style of teaching adopted by West Newcastle Academy ensures every child has a supportive learning environment, both at home and at school, by joining with families and encouraging children to achieve their full potential while building their enjoyment, learning, self-respect, self-esteem and self-belief.

Given the nature of the site, which has been derelict for many years, there are some challenges in store for Surgo and the professional team, which includes Turner and Townsend (contract administrator and quantity surveying), Blue Sky Design Services (architect and mechanical and electrical engineer) and WML Consulting (structural and civil engineering).

The site is adjacent to sheltered accommodation and a nursery which share the same access as well as public footpaths that run straight through the middle of the works.

A significant factor in Surgo’s selection was its extensive experience and ability to work in tight, heavily populated urban areas.

Commenting on the project, Surgo director, Jeff Alexander, said:

“We have a great deal of experience in the education sector and look forward to getting the project underway.  Due to the location we will be liaising closely with the local community to ensure the highest standards of site safety at all times.”

The design of the academy is unusual in that it operates on three levels with the main entrance at mid-level where there is a general office and large classroom or community room. The lower level has both a double and single height piazza providing a spacious and airy circulation area which will double as a dining hall.  There is also a kitchen and food technology room here as well as KS1 and reception classrooms.  The KS2 teaching space and staff areas will be located at the upper level.

Newcastle West Academy head teacher, Susan Percy, commented: “We are thrilled to see our new school becoming a reality after so long in the planning.  It will make a tremendous difference to our children to have these wonderful purpose-built facilities to support their education.   Our vision is for all children to achieve their full potential while broadening their experience of life outside the school gates, so our new building will provide the perfect base for them to consolidate this experience with a dynamic teaching and learning environment.”