Queensmill School in Shepherds Bush, London is an Ofsted outstanding, award-winning nursery, primary and secondary school for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders aged from two to 19 years. Maintained by London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, the school has 130 places for pupils who travel from across London for the specialist educational support that it provides.
Last year, extensive construction work started on a completely new, bespoke, larger building for Queensmill to cater for the growing numbers of pupils and to house the whole school on one site, rather than several smaller sites, which was previously the case. The new building represents a huge step forward for the school, enabling it to provide more spacious classrooms, interactive sensory rooms, a wet-room, a garden and a playground, as well as respite care for families, all under one roof.
With any new build or refurbishment project, whether it is within schools, colleges or universities, it is vital to consider how to create a flexible teaching environment while ensuring that essential storage requirements for everyday items such as books, craft materials, office stationery, musical instruments, learning aids, documents etc. can be accommodated easily and effectively. For a school such as Queensmill, which caters for children with more specialist needs that require an uncluttered, ‘low arousal’ environment to reduce their anxiety levels, the need for effective storage solutions is even more important.
The school’s architect approached Whiteleys, the leading supplier of office furniture, which provides schools, businesses and organisations throughout the UK with high quality office essentials, to advise on the best solution for their particular storage requirements.
Steve Newins, Director of Whiteleys, explains: ‘The architects working on the new school build were keen to develop an open learning environment with maximum flexibility and excellent storage capabilities that optimised all the available space. James Tobias immediately came to mind. We’ve been working with the company for many years and were aware of their new, innovative sliding door system for their Storage Wall range. The huge benefit of having a storage wall with sliding doors is that the system makes full use of all the available space. While traditional, hinged doors require enough room to swing open, sliding doors operate sideways, providing huge space saving advantages and making them ideal for use in classrooms and offices where space is at a premium and rooms have multiple uses and demands on them.’
Phil Jones, Managing Director of James Tobias, adds: ‘We have worked extremely closely with Whiteleys on this project to deliver the very best solution that meets the school’s specific needs. This involved producing joint plans and detailed specifications to ensure that everyone from the Head, the teaching staff and the pupils themselves benefitted from the installation of the new storage walls. And we are proud of the result; a practical, flexible, ergonomic, stylish storage solution that helps the school provide a tidy, safe, clutter-free, peaceful teaching environment where students can get on with the important task of learning.’