Pupils Tour Sydenham School’s New Building – Centrepiece of The £23 million BSF Scheme

It’s 8.30am on November 5 and instead of making their way to their tutor room the 15- and 16-year-olds of Mr Bima’s Year 11 class are crowded into Sydenham School’s front reception feverishly putting on steel-tipped  boots, high-visibility jackets, maxi-grip protective gloves and yellow hard-hats.  They are not the first group to take the 30-minute tour of the New Building: centrepiece of the three-year, £23 million Building Schools For The Future Project nearing completion at the school’s Dartmouth Road campus as students. Parents and staff have been visiting the site for the last two months.  The safety gear is a must as is the health and safety talk. All is on schedule for a spring 2015 opening but it is still a building site.

“I have worked on a number of such projects,” says Sydenham School’s Director of Strategy and Resources Joanne Smith, “and this is the first time I have met a contractor willing to let students onto the site while construction and fitting-out is still going on.  It is great for us as a STEM school that Costains has allowed this but also it’s a tribute to the girls that they are being trusted.”


Sydenham School: Year 11 Students Tour of the New Building – November 5, 2014. Pipe story – GCSE students (left to right) Lydia Swift (15); Florence Davis (15); Kinga Mackowiak (15); and Jennifer Herve-Samba (15) visit the labyrinthine boiler rooms that will serve their new classrooms, performing arts and gym studios, and changing rooms.

“It is really exciting to get a chance to look round the building,” says Kesmai Fennell (15), “trying to imagine what the classrooms and corridors will look like when they are finished.  It’s tantalising though, because by the time we get in there, my year-group will all be busy with GCSE revision.”   Later she learns, how different life as sixth-former will be, with her cohort being the first to have access to the dedicated A-Level floor, it’s specialist post-16 science, technology, design and engineering rooms and  exclusive use of a new cafe and roof-terrace.

There are plenty of other reasons to be full of anticipation.  The New Building is going to be home to industry standard music, media, and performing arts and PE-facilities, including a professional dance studio with mirrored-walls and sprung floors.  There is also to be a glass viewing gallery overlooking the International-quality gym from which, Joanne Smith, explains, it will be possible to watch matches and also film sports for training purposes.  A significant buzz of satisfaction passes through the group at the news of the ‘hotel-like’ toilet and shower facilities that will be standard throughout.


Sydenham School: Year 11 Students Tour of the New Building – November 5, 2014. Dressing for school when it’s a construction site; GCSE students (left to right) Lydia Swift (15); Kesmai Fennell (15) and Sayche Durant (16).

The Year 11 girls also get a chance to stand in what will be Sydenham School’s main hall – a space capable of accommodating the entire 1,450 student body – something that has not been possible in the existing facilities.  From there, Joanne Smith points out the new exterior amphitheatre which will double up as a recreation spot for students during breaks but also with a capacity to seat 500 people for theatre and dance performances and also, possible outside guest concerts.

“The girls returned from their tour buzzing with excitement,” reported their Tutor and Subject Leader for Engineering and Design, David Bima.  “We’ve all got used to the New Building steadily going up behind high hoardings, but now we have a clear idea of just how spectacular the new space will be.  From my perspective, it was fascinating to visit the Computer-Aided Design (CADCAM) room, and also learn about the atmosphere-sensitive windows that will open and close according to the ambient temperature and levels of Co2 in rooms.  It was also fun to be able to tour the boiler rooms to see the extraordinary complex of piping, and car-sized tanks and boilers that will serve the building.”

Meanwhile, as the Year 11 girls were touring, students in Years 8-10 were tackling a special maths project made possible by the release by Costains to mark the near-completion of this phase of the project of some of the facts and figures associated with the New Building’s construction.  “Armed with this data, the students were asked to come up with some equivalent measures that would perhaps make it easier to conceive the scale of the work involved and the spaces we’re soon to all be enjoying,” said Curriculum Leader Maths and Digital Technologies Mark Freakes.

The highlights included:

  • the 5,000+ guinea pig-lengths of small power cables used in the New Building’s construction (approx. 89,275m);
  • the quarter of a million maths exercise books it would take to entirely carpet the New Building’s  9,042m2 floor-space;
  • the 20 million cola cans of material excavated from the site equivalent to the 6,630 m3 removed; and
  • the 140,000 or so flattened crisp packets (depending on brand) required to cover the amount of roof spaces, including the sedum green roof.

“ But putting it all into perspective,” added Mark Freakes, “ one student calculation established that once the entire BSF is completed the combined area of the New Building and refurbished Old Building (12,460 m2) will amount to just a sixth of Buckingham Palace’s total area (77,000 m2)!”


Sydenham School: Year 11 Students Tour of the New Building – November 5, 2014. Posing with interesting ‘plant’ – the machine for cutting thread onto water pipes: GCSE students (left to right) Besrat Huruy (15) Kemai Fennell (15); and Amy Pateman (15).

He added: “”Having this building scheme around us for the last two years has proved an asset across the STEM curriculum giving students something quite literally concrete in front of their eyes that is the product of design, maths, physics and engineering. This ‘equivalents’ exercise has been the means of teaching and consolidating a number of skills including estimating, rounding, finding the areas of rectangles,  converting between metric units and   expressing one quantity as a proportion of another, as well as enabling students to create their own units of measurement.”

Back on site, the Year 11 tour finishes with a photo-opportunity featuring girls holding torches, suggesting how close in the schedule things are to the New Building lighting up properly for teaching and learning.  “There will be weekly tours now happening every Wednesday so that every tutor group can see the building – soon to become their familiar space- in a state of near completion, “says Sydenham School’s Headteacher Carolyn Unsted.  “As well as increasing the anticipation of moving into this amazing space, it is important the girls get a sense of the enormous complexity of such a building – the pipes, sprinklers, cabling and other infrastructure that will never be on such display again. We hope it will inspire students to consider a career somewhere in the whole process of construction – more and more women are doing so as we move into the 21st Century. ”

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Update Autumn Term 2014

We are delighted with the amount of progress we have seen on site over the summer which has continued this term as the weather has held.

In terms of construction works the STEM Building is now watertight and with the arrival of the gazing the building is beginning to show its external elevations. The impact the coloured glazing sections will have on the final design can be seen, adding interest on the outside and really contributing to the light on the inside.

The scaffolding is slowly coming down and the brickwork is being completed and the external wall panels have been fitted so we can finally see them in situ. The performing arts building is being completed but is not so far advanced. We can clearly see the structure of the gym as it is not yet clad and the pupils who have been on site tours have really been awed by the huge size of the steel structure.

On the roofs of both buildings – the STEM and the Performing Arts Building the structures housing the plant works have been completed, as have the bannisters around the roof terrace.

The large crane will come down before the end of term and this will mark the end of the major construction part of the project.

Internally the block work in the STEM Building is complete and the 2nd fix is taking place, the electrics, data cables, heating, plumbing etc are being fitted. The internal doors and light rafts, large light fittings incorporating lighting, safety lights, smoke sensors and covering the exposed electrics and sprinkler systems have arrived and are being fitted.

The first floor layer, of latex, has been laid throughout the STEM Building and the permanent flooring is being laid down. The central, feature staircase has been constructed and will soon be dressed.

The external dining terrace is being created and the hard landscaping has begun with the building of our feature fish pond up against the retaining wall. The landscaping is going to be a large project taking a further two years as it follows construction.

In the Old Building two exemplar rooms have been created which show what we can expect from the refurbishment and we have been impressed with the first presentation.

The furniture and equipment selections have been completed, as has most of the specialist equipment such as the audio visual fixtures, the sports equipment and the built in furniture.

Over the next half term we are working on our decant strategy and implementation planning, with faculty heads planning their faculty moves. We are also working on the telephone supplier arrangements and the IT strategy for both buildings. We are planning for a seamless move over Easter 2015.

We have continued to run site visits on a weekly basis, taking tutor groups as well as faculty groups around the new building. These visits have added real value to the build process, allowing teaching groups to focus on curriculum linked construction processes, faculties to see their areas and to give the students a look at what they can expect. The students have been really impressed by the size of the new build as well as by the facilities they will be provided with.

Overall we remain pleased with progress, with communication between the contractors and ourselves and on the benefits the project is bringing to teaching and learning

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Topping Out Ceremony

Monday 31st March was an important day for the School as we held the Topping Out Ceremony for the new building which means that the Great – (Lewisham’s Mayor Sir Steve Bullock and Jim Dowd MP, various local councillors and several representatives from the Local Authority) and the Good (governors, students, staff) and the Builders (Costains) all gathered together to put the final slab of concrete in the topmost section of the building as a marker and milestone for the building. A sprig of evergreen from the front hedge went underneath the concrete to seal in the success and protection for the building and all who work in it…..Our Motto is Aim High so we are delighted to have reached the highest point of the building! The Topping Out ceremony was a celebration of the future as we look ahead to a golden time for the school and its students. We are on track, on budget and getting ready to move into our fantastic State of the Art Sydenham School this time next year. The wonderful resources and amazing IT will give us the chance to move from the 1950s building into a 21st Century Learning Environment that will give our students the very best opportunities for achieving their best outcomes. Nana Umoh our Head Girl led her team of Deputy Head Girls onto the roof of the new building at Sydenham wearing the Full PPE safety outfits of hard hats, safety boots and High Vis jackets. She helped Aubrey Davies the Site Manager to prepare for the final Topping Out and said, ”It’s fantastic – I have never mixed concrete before and it is really hard work! All the girls watch the building changing every day and we can’t wait to move in next year and use all the new equipment. I’ve been waiting a long time for this since I started in Year 7 and now it’s really going to happen!” Every day we’re watching the building grow and being up on the Sixth Form Terrace made me realise how super it is going to be!

There will be student tours starting early next term so they can start to visualise themselves in the building!

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Latest Update

We have had another major concrete pour this week, this time to the slab which will become the 6th Form roof terrace. You can see what fantastic views we will have from there.
The building is going up remarkably quickly, day by day we can see rooms being formed, corridors emerging and we have a sense of the scale of the building. We have had our first walk around the inside of the structure which was really exciting. The scale of the hall and the rooms is fantastic, we will have so much space which were are sorely lacking at the moment. We can really imagine what the building is going to deliver.
We were welcomed at Beecroft Primary this week to look at some of the features in a school which we are going to have here. Beecroft Primary is stunning and we are so excited to think that our school will have the same acoustics, light and space – it will be a fantastic environment to teach and learn in.


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On Monday 31st March at 11.30am the Mayor of Lewisham and other local dignitaries will be visiting Sydenham to perform the ‘topping out’ ceremony on the new building. We will also be placing the Time Capsule below the new Performing Arts Block and a team of students from the Student Council and our Leadership Students will be participating in the Ceremony. This is an important and exciting stage in the new build process as it marks the reaching of the highest point of the building.

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Latest Update

Since Christmas Costains have been working through the rain and cold and have made excellent progress, not losing a day until the 83 mile an hour gale yesterday forced work to stop for the afternoon. We have been watching in awe as the building has been going up floor by floor. It has been really exciting watching the progress from the hall lobby as we have such excellent views of the site. The students have particularly enjoyed watching the delicate use of the massive crane – the accuracy and control of the lift and move has put our most ardent gamers to shame.

We are planning our Topping Out ceremony for the spring and the student council will begin getting a Time Capsule ready  to be buried next term. Student visits to the site will begin in earnest after half term and planning ahead we have just received a delivery of safety boots in every conceivable size!

Over the next term we will see the brickwork on the STEM Building go up and the cladding to the upper floors being applied. The first fix of internal facilities will begin going in from the end of March and we will then really see the rooms beginning to take shape. Once we can walk round the building and into rooms we know will be classrooms, labs and so on we will really begin to feel that the building is our new school.

We hosted a local Residents meeting on Tuesday and here we have included the presentation which Costains gave. We will host another meeting around Easter time.

Sydenham Residents Presentation Tuesday 11th February

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Costain Newsletter December 2013

Costain Newsletter December 2013

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