Thomas Ferens Academy
New Development, Esteem Consortium


Henry Cooper School was an outdated 1,000 capacity secondary school located on a leased site. A new Academy on a new site was required to replace 1960s facility. Sponsored by the University of Hull, the Academy was to cater for up to 1,250 pupils and specialise in science and foreign languages, which meant the facility needed to reflect these requirements.


The local authority, sponsors and Sewell held extensive community engagement sessions to ensure the building and external spaces would cater for their requirements in addition to the school’s. The design created multiple accesses into the school, with cycle stores to encourage different routes and transport methods. Television aerial signal surveys were carried out during the development phase to determine whether the building would disrupt satellite signals. As a result, we replaced 22 house aerials with high gain boosters to avoid any disruption.

A total of 86 contractors were selected from Hull-based companies and we also chose a waste contractor that segregated waste, resulting in at least 95% of all site waste being recycled.

After the planning submission, the Government’s Spending Review led to a cut in funding. The budget for the Academy had been tightened and the project team needed to identify 15% of savings, without affecting the planning application that was already running. The value engineering exercise identified a number of cost saving activities, including a rework of the programme to allow for a later demolition of existing offices, enabling these to be used as site accommodation. To ensure absolute best price, costing was then benchmarked against a national database by Ryder Levit Bucknall.

The workforce were given an intense induction, with a particular focus on safety, team work and construction excellence to reinforce the high standards set out in the tender package. This was further communicated through numerous campaigns including ‘the ten minute a day rule’ to ensure a tidy, safe site and ‘total quality’ workshops, which put the finishes responsibility truly in the hands of the operatives.


With whole life costing and flexibility at front of mind, some of the wings on the site were built with additional steel support to enable cost efficient expansion in the future. Bespoke ‘prism systems’ of pipe work, cable trails and other service components were developed offsite, shortening the installation time and excelling the construction.

The nature of the site and its location, close to a drain and water course containing voles, meant a number of ecological constraints had to be taken into consideration. The site team worked closely with English Nature to ensure protection requirements were met at every stage of the project. Appropriate planting for endemic species was also factored into the landscape design.

User guides for the building were distributed and a user training programme for caretakers and teachers was delivered in the three months leading up to the handover. These were carried out within the academy to familiarise staff with the layout.

A time capsule was buried on site and wildlife days and site tours were organised. We also built new football facilities after learning the local team were in need of a new dugout, and provided a Christmas tree for the local church.


A challenging programme was delivered effectively, with the school being completed with quality, safely, and on time to open for the start of the new school year. The school is split into five wings, separate in its own right and can be locked down for community use out of operating hours.

Delivering on time meant a timely decant of pupils for the existing school, Henry Cooper, to allow another school, Newland School for Girls, to utilise these facilities during their school’s remodel and refurbishment.

I feel very privileged to have been part of the team who has worked so hard to construct Thomas Ferens Academy. It's a stunning building that provides us with a magnificent environment for learning and teaching.

Principal Thomas Ferens Academy