Ashby School is an academy for 14 to 18 year olds.
Based in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire they are consistently one of the best-performing state upper schools in its county, Ashby has a 400-year history and over 1700 students on roll. We worked with the project stakeholders - school head, business manager, estates manager, library staff and and students - to design deliver a scheme that meet all their needs.
- FULL-SERVICE & FIT OUT
- SIZE OF LIBRARY FLOOR: 280m2
Since 2012, Blueprint has been working with Ashby on a series of projects to transform the school’s interiors.
The relationship began with the redevelopment of the reception area, in collaboration with HSSP Architects. The school’s Head and governors had recognised that this facility, and others throughout the school, now appeared dated and uninviting. In general, the school’s interior space lacked the flexibility to support modern teaching methods, and was not always organised in the most efficient way.
Ashby’s aim is to create motivating learning environments in which students can be nurtured to reach their full potential. As a school with academy status, their premises need to be capable of inspiring potential business sponsors, as well as prospective students.
Following the success of the redesigned reception area, Blueprint has carried out various projects for the school, including remodelling the staff room and café, and creating an innovative learning hub. In the summer of 2015, Blueprint were commissioned to overhaul the school library.
The issue: a dark, inflexible space
Ashby’s library wasn’t working nearly as well as it could – for students or teachers. The space was dimly lit, and lacking in comfort and visual appeal. The school wanted to revitalise the space so that students would actively want to come in and use it.
They also wished to give students and teachers more flexibility to adapt the library space to their needs. As it was, the space was dominated by large, static tables and heavy chairs that were difficult to move. The school needed a more mobile set-up, which would allow teachers supervising library classes to divide students up into different-sized groups, and give more options to students using the space for private study.
In 2014, Blueprint had developed a ‘learning hub’: a space with white, wipe-clean walls that could be written on and used for 360° immersive image projection. This immensely popular space was adjacent to the library, and the school wanted to achieve a consistent standard of quality and flexibility across the two rooms, so that they could be used in tandem to deliver classes. Blueprint were tasked with finding the best design solutions for the library to enhance student learning and enjoyment.
WHAT WE DID
Blueprint had already reached a deep understanding of the school’s culture and ethos. We now needed to uncover:
- The issues of the library space
- The way it was currently used, and the way Ashby would like it to be used
The first step was to carry out a book audit to find out how many books there were, and in what topics.
Blueprint designers worked with the school librarian to understand how the books should be organised (via the Dewey Decimal System) and how much shelving space was needed.
They identified these issues with the existing library set-up:
- Too much shelving – gaps and empty shelves meant wasted space that could be made available for other activities in the library
- Not enough light – weak and insufficient lighting made it difficult to read and study. The excessive number of bookshelves combined with the way they were positioned also meant that light was being blocked out unnecessarily.
- Lack of flexibility and choice – because all tables and chairs were the same (round tables seating four), students had only one option for studying.
The project’s major challenge was that work had to be completed within the school summer holidays, and also leave time for the library shelves to be restocked before the students returned. This gave 5 weeks for the fit out and furnish.
Blueprint came up with a design that was light, bright and flexible. It featured:
Three distinct study areas:
- A large-group study area, with kite-shaped tables that could be divided/combined in different ways.
- A small-group area, with soft seating, stools, and small tables/desks that could be rearranged easily
- A magazine area for quiet reading. This was positioned on a raised platform, with beanie bags and cushions, as well as wall-mounted newspaper/magazine holders.
The redesigned library also featured:
- A lively colour scheme, incorporating the school’s brand colours – colour and pattern were used to mark out distinct areas of the library, as well as make the space more enjoyable to use.
- Brighter, more efficient lighting solutions – including wall-mounted lights to improve bookshelf visibility.
- More compact shelving – creating a large amount of space.
- A folding wall that allowed the large study area to be sectioned off from the main library as needed.
Blueprint project managed the refurbishment to overcome challenges and avoid delays. For example, when some of the new shelving was damaged in transit, Blueprint worked with the manufacturer to secure a fast replacement, keeping the project on schedule.
As well as the design, Blueprint took care of the entire fit-out and furnish process, working with trusted subcontractors to complete the work to the highest professional standards.
The project was completed to schedule, in 5 weeks,
and delivered on time and on budget.
The refurbished library is now:
- A much more inviting space – colourful and comfortable
- Flexible enough to be adapted to a number of different uses and teaching styles
- Much lighter and more spacious
As a result, the library is used and enjoyed much more frequently – both by individual students and class groups.
“Blueprint proved themselves again during the remodelling of the school library, pushing the boundaries of what could be done within the space to make the spend even more compelling. Teachers now use the space for more informal sessions and, together with the learning hub, the library is unlocking teaching methods that weren’t possible in a conventional classroom. More students use the space for private study as well.
The new library is a great showcase of the school – promoting us as a progressive academy – and we receive constant interest in seeing the space from other local schools. It undoubtedly helps with securing new students.”Eddie GreenHeadteacher
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