Willmott Dixon has signed a contract worth £10.3 million to revitalise Birkenhead High School Academy, an independent Girls’ 3 – 19 Academy.

The company will remodel and refurbish the existing buildings, alongside adding new accommodation. The proposals for the remodelled school campus draw on the heritage and historical character of the existing school whilst still offering all the facilities of a newly built Academy.

This approach will enable Birkenhead High School Academy for Girls to benefit from a new, energy efficient school for substantially less than the cost of building a completely new facility. Mrs Chris Mann, the new principal said “The project will enable us to continue providing an excellent all round education for girls from the area of 3-19 years of age within the glorious original buildings but with 21st century facilities.”

Working with the Girls' Day School Trust as sponsor, Wirral Council, and Mott MacDonald as technical advisors, Willmott Dixon will start on site this month, with completion of the build process by October 2012. The project will see the nursery, infant and junior school modernised and linked together by a new light and airy three-storey building. This will provide new library and ICT facilities and an assembly hall alongside additional classrooms.

The adjacent secondary school will benefit from the old school hall, built in the 1960’s, being replaced by a multi functional central space which will offer a theatre, dining room, study areas and a café alongside a new hall. Other buildings on site will be retained but remodelled and refurbished to match the new facilities.

The landscaping across the whole site will also be improved and enhanced to include an amphitheatre, Arts terrace and extra sports facilities.

Another benefit will be increased thermal performance of the buildings, which will reduce their carbon emissions, and Willmott Dixon plan to analyse the improvements with a ‘before and after’ assessment.

Chief executive for Willmott Dixon’s Capital Works division, John Frankiewicz, says, “While there will always be a need to create new buildings, clients are being more innovative in how they renew them and this includes mixing refurbishment with new-build to modernise and enlarge the facility. We have shown recently with Macclesfield High School that taking this approach saved over £4 million compared to going down a new-build route.”

In a study last year Willmott Dixon found that on Cheshire’s Macclesfield High School, where one third was refurbished and the remaining added as new-build, it resulted in a 22 per cent saving against the cost of an entire new-build, a contract sum of £15m against a new-build price of £19.5m. As local authorities reduce their budgets in light of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the project to modernise Birkenhead High School Academy for Girls could well represent the future of capital spend in education.”

Willmott Dixon has extensive experience of working on projects where occupants are on site, and has a unique ‘Insitu Plan’ to ensure pupils and teachers are not disrupted by the work. Assisting the company are architects Aedas, structural engineers Capita Symonds and M&E Consultants, TACE.

Willmott Dixon is committed to using the project as a significant educational opportunity for pupils and other young people in Wirral. The company will be involved with the academy’s curriculum, and also with Careers Days, Recruitment Fairs and mock interviews.