A SCHOOL is focusing all its efforts towards paving the way for a sustainable future, starting with its own site.

St Wilfrid’s RC College, in South Shields, has become passionate about making space for nature and wildlife and reducing their carbon footprint, with features of a planned extension reflecting this ideology.

Planning permission was granted last month to build a £1.43m extension to the existing school building, providing six new classrooms, extra dining space along with some ancillary storage and WCs.

Previous issues with drainage and localised flooding meant an attenuation system was needed to improve the problem, and this inspired the idea of creating a pond near to the Memorial Garden.

Francesca Craik, executive head at St Wilfrid’s, said: "The part of the build which I am most passionate about is the outdoor area, especially the attenuation pond in which we saw it as an opportunity to create something really stunning.

"It's an area which we can use in our science lessons, when we'll be able to take our pupils outside and have activities such as pond dipping on site in biology lessons.

"We've also taken great care with the horticultural team around exactly what plants, shrubs, flowers, and trees we're going to put in there so that we can encourage as much wildlife as possible.

"We're hoping to plant things which we'll be able to potentially use in our kitchens as well, such as fruit trees, and also to extend our dining facilities, as we are a hugely oversubscribed school at the moment."

The school is part of the Bishop Chadwick Catholic Education Trust (BCCET), which recruited a local professional team to develop the building, led by project management consultancy Faithful+Gould.

The team includes Newcastle architecture firm Space, which has worked alongside Jasper Kerr & Link MEP.

Brendan Tapping, CEO of BCCET, noted: “Everyone agreed at the outset that we should aspire for a building that would reduce demand for energy and make more efficient use of renewables.

“This would not just save money but also reduce our carbon footprint and do our small part, as we all face the global climate emergency.”

The new extension at St Wilfrid’s will incorporate sustainable elements to reduce carbon use, including the incorporation of solar panels, air source heat pumps, Brise Soleil solar shading, efficient lighting and a mixed mode ventilation system.

In addition to this, the team is looking to enhance biodiversity through the provision of a wildflower roof and attenuation pond, which not only provides a sustainable drainage solution, but will also act as an educational resource.

Chris Holmes, director at Space, explained: “We had to look at the existing buildings and accommodation and review how we could creatively configure a new extension on a very tight site.

"We always try to create buildings that will make a positive impact both to the end user and the wider community and environment.”

Francesca Craik added: “It’s a relatively small extension, but a lot of care and thought has gone into its design.

“The project team have really listened to our aspirations and shown great invention.

“We are delighted with the proposals, which we hope will provide a fantastic facility for our pupils now and in the future.

"As a Roman Catholic school, we are very focused on better schools and better communities, and the idea of stewardship and taking care of things is part of our Christian heritage, which is partly why we wanted to create something more sustainable.

"We hope the new block will be there for decades to come, therefore it's got to fit in with future society where ecologically minded things - particularly builds - will be driven more in that nature, especially when trying to reduce our carbon footprint."

A building contractor has yet to be appointed for work to start on site sometime after May.

She added: "Cooking is very important to us and being able to prepare healthy meals on a budget, so we're also hoping that once we complete the new dining room, we'll have a showcase cookery area.

"This would enable us to have local community events and cooking demonstrations- our head chef was trained at The Ritz, so he's very skilled.

"We want to aim to use as much as possible from our small kitchen garden to feed into that project.

"For us, it hasn't just been about wanting to have extra dining space and additional classrooms- the bigger idea was how can we do this so that it is inspiring.

"It's really exciting to be part of it, and we want something that's going to be functional, sustainable, and inspirational."

St Wilfrid’s has received government financial support, via the Condition Improvement Fund (CIF), to expand current provision.

To find out more about the school and future plans and developments, visit st-wilfrids.org/