CABE press release

Boost for academy programme as City of London wins top design award

27 October 2006

Contact: Dan Thomson, 020 7070 6772

The City of London Academy has won the Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award for 2006. The comprehensive school in Bermondsey, designed by architects Studio E, beat off strong competition from 13 other shortlisted schemes to clinch the prestigious prize.

The announcement is being made in the evening of 26 October, at a ceremony in central London. Now in its sixth year, this annual award is jointly sponsored by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and the Office of Government Commerce (OGC). Unlike the Stirling prize, it recognises excellence in both the design quality and procurement practice of publicly funded building schemes.

Commenting on the win for the City of London Academy, John Sorrell, chair of CABE, said:

'It is interesting that academies appear to enjoy considerably better design than other schools. The key difference appears to be not just cost but the extra time for design and consultation in the early stages of the project.'

Opened by the Prime Minister in September 2005, the City of London Academy has proved hugely popular, with 1,370 pupils applying for 180 places last year. The architects have designed the school to have a light and airy atrium at its heart, providing daylight and natural ventilation. This also acts as a dramatic entrance and social hub for the school. The project is intended to be a catalyst for local regeneration as well as a centre of learning excellence, and it includes facilities for community use.

The academy is sponsored by the City of London Corporation. It is so pleased at the outcome that it has agreed to co-sponsor two more academies, in Hackney and Islington, and will use the same broad principles to procure and build them.

The win comes after CABE's schools audit in July which assessed the design quality of school buildings completed over the last five years. This found that design quality, although improving, is not good enough to achieve the government's ambition to transform our children's education.

The academies included in the audit were considerably better than other schools - all were ranked partially good, good or excellent. This applied whether they had been procured through PFI or other procurement routes. Earlier this month, Mossbourne Academy in Hackney - shortlisted for last year's Prime Minister's Award - was described as 'outstanding' by OFSTED.

Presenting the award, Jim Knight, Minister for Schools, said:

'I am delighted that a school has won this prestigious award. After seeing the high quality of new schools that are being built I am not at all surprised by this award. We are investing record amounts of money in school buildings to create inspiring and world class schools that young people want to learn in.'

'We want buildings that are fully inclusive and which are open to wider use, binding schools into their local communities. It's vital that parents and pupils get involved in the design of new schools and sustainability is at the heart of every project.'

Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, said:

'This year's nominees show the benefits that excellence in design and procurement can bring to local communities and the environment. They set high standards for public building projects both now and in the future. As Government Design Champion I am delighted that the excellent City of London Academy has won the 2006 award. This exciting project demonstrates how high quality design and decisive project management can create learning environments which respond to the needs of students, teachers and the wider community.'

John Oughton, chief executive of the OGC, said:

'I'm delighted that the City of London Academy has won the Prime Minister's Better Public Building Award for 2006. I am especially pleased at the Academy's emphasis on effective management, on integrated team working and on the up front effort on design. This is the recipe for whole-life, sustainable value for money projects advocated by the OGC's Achieving Excellence in Construction initiative.'

Principal Martyn Coles explained the partnering process used to procure the new school:

'Collaboration and team work are key elements which make partnering different from the traditional client/designer/contractor relationship. Ideas are shared and problems discussed freely at meetings. Partnering meant that we were able to closely monitor both cost and quality and the Academy was closely involved in all decision making. The building finished both on time and budget.'

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