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College lockdown upgrades enhance classes in Fenland town

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A £14.6million project to expand and refurbish a Fenland school designed to meet a town's growing demand is now complete.

Morgan Sindall Construction has completed the expansion project at Cromwell Community College to meet a growing demand for educational spaces in the area.

The £14.6m, two-year Cromwell Community College development was delivered during the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020-21. Morgan Sindall Construction’s Cambridge business worked alongside Cambridgeshire County Council on the project in Chatteris, which will be run by The Active Learning Trust.

College lockdown upgrades enhance classes in Chatteris. (54480285)
College lockdown upgrades enhance classes in Chatteris. (54480285)

The new college is the first school in the county funded by the council to provide all-through education, from ages four to 18-years old, in a bid to meet a growing demand for student places with high-end educational facilities.

To ensure the highest standard of education can be provided, the school was renovated to include a state-of-the-art performing arts theatre, new art facilities, food technology kitchens, reception area and an all-weather sports pitch, which is also available to the surrounding community.

In addition, Cromwell now benefits from a new pre-school, accommodation for 210 primary-aged children and additional secondary teaching classrooms. The works also included a full internal renovation to the existing main college site as well as new play areas and landscaping

Morgan Sindall Construction won the contract for the project in April 2019, with work beginning on the thirteen-phase development during the summer holidays of the academic year in order to avoid disruption to students.

When the UK Government announced its first national lockdown in March 2020, the build began to encounter challenges such as staff shortages, disrupted schedules and supply chain shortages. Despite this, Cromwell Community College was successfully delivered on time and to a high standard in June 2021, ahead of the next academic year.

To accomplish such a complex, multi-phase development, a strategic plan was required that understood the needs of the council and with deadlines that could be adjusted to their benefit.

Morgan Sindall established a strong relationship with the Cromwell throughout the build, in part due to the need to work in parallel during term time. Ensuring the build followed strict health and safety protocols, did not disrupt lessons, and remained flexible, were all key elements of the project’s management.

Morgan Sindall prioritises social value creation within the local area and the communities that it operates in. Over 123 volunteering hours were donated to the local community from Morgan Sindall Construction, as well as 69 hours with Cromwell Community College students too. Also, 96 per cent of the funding of the project was spent with SME’s in the local area, furthering the areas economic benefit.

The construction firm looks to recruit locally and support existing back to work programmes before seeking resources outside of the community.

The Cromwell project saw 17 direct beneficiaries from the local area, 24 per cent of which were apprentices and 18 per cent were employed full-time.

Jamie Shearman, Cambridge area director for Morgan Sindall Construction, said: “The last two years of working and learning from home has shown us the importance of high-quality learning environments on children’s educational development. It is great to see young people, teachers and staff moving into their new space this academic year and reaping the rewards of this extensively upgraded college.

“The build encountered a range of challenges due to it being delivered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to our extensive experience in delivering first-class educational facilities, the team were able to adapt and overcome the problems they faced.

“We have formed a close relationship with The Active Learning Trust, Cambridgeshire County Council and the rest of our project partners during the development of Cromwell Community College, and together we are proud of the positive social value we have created in the local area”

Jane Horn, Cromwell's headteacher, said: “This is a tremendous landmark for Cromwell Community College and we have a lovely new primary provision building on the site and a host of fantastic facilities. We have an expanded college site to be proud of and one which will serve our community well into the 21st century. The professional approach and close working relationships developed with those at Morgan Sindall Construction undoubtedly was a key factor in the success of the project.”

Vikki Spittles, education capital project officer at Cambridgeshire County Council, said: “Morgan Sindall Construction have worked really hard to deliver an excellent project in very difficult circumstances. The relationship that Morgan Sindall has built up with the school helped drive the project to its success, ensuring that all the finer details were worked through with the school. Cromwell are now able to deliver an all through education provision in accommodation that has been designed, and delivered, by a professional project team.”

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