Construction begins on new £32.8m secondary school in Kent

The new academy being built in Kent which will open in 2026
-Credit: (Image: BAM)

Construction is underway for a new £32.8 million secondary school in Kent for 750 pupils. New images show heavy plant and teams on site, bringing to life the vision for the existing Orchards Academy in Swanley.

The replacement school will be finished in 2026 and will feature a sports block. The academy in St Mary's Road is a mixed comprehensive school for youngsters aged 11 to 18 and, at its last Ofsted inspection in 2021, it was rated good.

In addition to classrooms, there will be indoor sports facilities and new outdoor soft sports pitches. There will be two distinct blocks, one for teaching and the other for a sports hall.

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Orchards Academy was one of the four Kent schools revealed in July 2021 to be in line for Government funding. And in January last year, a further nine Kent and Medway schools were on a list of those set to benefit from "transformative new buildings".

They were Birchington Church of England Primary School, Chatham and Clarendon Grammar School, Rosherville Church of England Academy, Saint George's Church of England School, St Anselm's Catholic School, Canterbury, St Simon Stock Catholic School, The Lenham School, Water Meadows Primary School (all Kent), and The Howard School (Medway).

Aerial shot shows construction by BAM is underway to build £32.8million new school building in Kent
Aerial shot shows construction by BAM is underway to build £32.8million new school building in Kent -Credit:BAM

The announcements came after a Government report warned some school blocks were at risk of collapse. The Department for Education said the risk was mainly in buildings built between 1945 and 1970 which are “at or approaching the end of their designed life-expectancy and structural integrity is impaired”.

Sevenoaks and Swanley MP Laura Trott made a high-profile lobby to have Orchards Academy rebuilt, raising the issue in the House of Commons and urging for funding for the school. She also backed the grassroots campaign, which generated more than 1,300 signatures.

The Orchards Academy builders BAM said the new school would be "designed to achieve net zero carbon building". According to the Net Zero Buildings website, this means "no fossil fuels are used to operate the building".

It said the build was scheduled to finish in the third quarter of 2026. BAM stressed the green credentials of the new academy, saying its "key sustainability features" include 1,400sqm of PV panels, a green roof to reduce overheating and provide a home for natural habitats, and low carbon concrete in some of the structural elements.

BAM to deliver £32.8 Million Net Zero Orchards Academy secondary school in Kent
Sevenoaks's Tory MP Laura Trott

It said natural ventilation is prioritised and sustainable urban drainage systems (SuDS) are used. BAM's construction manager Daniel Brenchley said: "The Orchard Academy will meet the highest standards of quality and sustainability design, aligning perfectly with our own mission of building a sustainable tomorrow."

"The buildings well thought out spaces, providing access to plenty of natural daylight, will create an environment supporting learning and growth for all learning needs. Once complete, the academy will also become an integral part of the community with the school’s modern facilities offering a hub for local sports teams, organisations, and the public.”

In January last year, the Government also announced increased funding which it says will total £58.8 billion by 2024-25. That includes a £2.5bn boost for mainstream schools and an additional £1bn in funding for children and young people with complex special educational needs and disabilities.

KentLive invited Kent County Council's cabinet member for education yesterday to comment on the latest news of the academy.

How the classrooms will look when the academy opens in 2026
BAM to deliver £32.8 Million Net Zero Orchards Academy secondary school in Kent -Credit:BAM

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