Remodelling of the Former Kimberley Nursery School - Small Project of the Year 2023 

Newport Norse

Small Project of the Year 2024
Project Overview

The project was part of Newport City Council’s (NCC) school reorganisation programme and involved the remodelling of the former Kimberley Nursery to a Special school that would increase the capacity of the current Ysgol Bryn Derw Special School, one of only two such schools in the city.

The single-storey building was constructed in the mid-1960’s and is typical of many buildings of its time. Although structurally sound, it was very poorly insulated and expensive to maintain and operate, with disproportionately high utility costs. The lack of insulation and construction methods at the time also meant that, from a teaching perspective, the building was acoustically very poor.

The building is located in Blaen-y-Pant Crescent, a residential street just off Malpas Road in Newport, and also borders a popular local park so is prominent in its environment. Following the relocation of the former Nursery school there was local concern that if the building was left vacant for a long period of time it could attract vandalism and become an eyesore so there was local support for a positive change to be made.


Capital funding was secured from Welsh Government with two key strategic objectives; 1) to increase teaching capacity for pupils with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as local demand exceeded supply; 2) modernize and improve the building to reduce future revenue costs.


Further design and project objectives were;


  1. To provide a modern teaching environment suitable for Foundation Phase pupils
  2. Improve the building to reduce ongoing revenue costs
  3. Wellbeing, provision of specialist school places in the local community promoting cohesion and reducing the need for out-of-county placements
  4. Carbon reduction in line with the council’s Climate Change Plan
  5. Collaboration, stakeholder involvement and engagement, notably the Ysgol Bryn Derw school and its Governing Body.


Following initial option appraisals and site surveys the design developed to extensively remodel the existing building from a three-classroom layout to four, plus ancillary sensory and quiet rooms. The decision to remodel the building rather than demolish and rebuild new was supported as it reduced the carbon impact of the project, reduced construction waste and was less disruptive to neighbours.

The Design Approach
Having determined through the feasibility design stage that remodelling was the appropriate design approach, there were three main considerations for design development. Firstly, the existing layout of the building provided three classrooms where, after an options appraisal, it was agreed that four were required and these needed to be developed in line with BB104 guidance. Secondly, the building needed to work for the school and its pedagogy.

BB104 states; “some pupils with autism need an easily understood environment with a low level of distraction and sensory stimulus to reduce anxiety or distress…and may benefit from having a safe, sheltered outdoor space”.

Design development through RIBA Stages 3 and 4 was undertaken on a collaborative basis through various meetings and workshops which, together with the design team, included colleagues from NCC Education and the Headteacher of the school who gave key input on behalf of the school’s teaching staff, Governing Body and most importantly how the building could best serve the pupils. Focus was also given to how the school would deliver learning on a separate site but maintain synergy with the existing Ysgol Bryn Derw site.

Examples of this include understanding pupil numbers per class, teaching and teaching assistant numbers and how this would work on a day-to-day basis, for example toilet and shower provision and understanding how pupils would use the facilities. ASD pupils also require greater personal space, and it was agreed through discussion that class sizes would be 6-8 pupils which helped determine layout and areas. Another example was a preference for vinyl flooring with soft/loose mats and not carpet.

Additional structural openings were designed to allow all classes direct external access to covered soft play areas, again vital for ASD pupils.

The third key objective was meeting the council’s carbon reduction targets, and this was initially done by a “fabric first approach” while queries with mains utility supplies to the building were progressed. This was achieved through external insulation and render to the masonry walls, installation of new modern curtain walling and the renewal and insulation of the roof coverings including boarding over existing rooflights.

Additional carbon reduction measures included two air source heat pumps installed to replace the previous gas heat source, PIR sensory LED lighting, environmental toilet flushes and remote monitoring of the BMS system. Solar heating was considered but discounted due to the orientation of the building and the shading effect of surrounding mature trees.


The Nursery school completed their final term in July 2021 and one of the first jobs was the R&D Asbestos survey which was considered too disruptive to be done in term time, primarily as the building was used for Nursery age education and the team did not want their final experiences of the building spoiled by extensive temporary coverings. In addition, the building was cleared of surplus furniture and equipment while the asbestos survey was being processed.

Newport Norse appointed Davlan Construction Ltd as a Partner Builder following a competitive price/quality tender to deliver the construction works. Davlan had previous experience of working with both the school and the design team having successfully completed a refurbishment of an Annexe building at the school’s main site in the Gaer in 2019.

Davlan are a local SME with around 25 employees including 3 apprentices. Their main trades are bricklaying, carpentry, decorating and joinery all of which were utilised on this project. A first-year apprentice carpenter was on site for the majority of the project together with a third-year decorating apprentice for the last few months. Local sub-contractors were also used who all have longstanding relationships with Davlan.

Davlan took possession of the site 31st August 2021, and the works were completed 20th May 2022 which enabled the school to use the half-term to carry out their fit-out and receive staff training to familiarise themselves with their new building. This approach also meant there was a continual presence in the building from the Nursery school leaving to the new school opening which gave assurance to local residents.

One challenge encountered during the works was the management of the car park which also shared access with the local football club and a small café. This was managed through daily check-ins between the parties which included restricting contractor’s use by “double parking” to maximise space for visitors to the park, football club and café. Upon completion surplus materials were donated to the football club for a patio project they were planning, plus a new football kit was purchased for the under-12 team

Summary and Feedback

The whole team are very proud to have delivered this specialist facility to breathe new life into an asset that lies at the heart of the community.

Ongoing revenue savings will be generated by reducing the need for out-of-county placements together with the day-to-day practical benefits this gives to parents by their children being educated in the local community. Further revenue reductions are forecast by the reduced running costs of the building due to its enhanced thermal and carbon reduction features.

However, the project is best summarised by this feedback from Richard Drew, the school’s Headteacher who commented post-occupation;

“The refurbishment to provide the Ysgol Bryn Derw Foundation Phase site has been a very effective and beneficial process for the school and pupils before, during and after. The project team listened and responded to all our requests for the plans of the school leadership, maximising pupil space, creating better channels of transition for pupils with complex needs and adapting plans to respond to the sensory needs of pupils. Throughout the project the school were kept in the loop on everything with regular site meetings, full school involvement in colour schemes and regular dialogue to avoid any misunderstandings. The finished building has proved to be incredibly beneficial to the pupil’s very complex needs. All pupils are attending regularly and are successfully making positive progress. Parental visits always lead to glowing feedback about the environment, staff from our other sites are always jealous when they visit of the feel of the building and the quality of the finished job. Other visits from education professionals lead to them taking ideas about adapting their environments back in their own setting. If we could turn the clock back to the planning stage, there is very little we would do differently as the finished layout and facilities are meeting pupil needs outstandingly well.”

Project Name Remodelling of the Former Kimberley Nursery School
Project Location 1 Blaen-y-Pant Crescent, Newport, NP20 5QB
Project Start Date 31st August 2021
Practical Completion 20th May 2022
Project Value £990,415
QS/Cost Consultant Newport Norse
Structural Engineer Cambria Consulting
Electrical/Mechanical Engineer Brunel Integrated Services
Contractor Davlan Construction
Building Control Newport City Council
Architect MG Architecture
Engineer Cambria Consulting