Page 7 - Independent Schools Magazine
P. 7

Pictured left: Head of Science, Neale Else, with Space Scientist, Maggie Aderin-Pocock and outgoing Headmaster, Michael Hall
New Science Facility
~ turning the dream into reality
Head of Science at Bedford Modern School, Neale Else, describes the journey from inception to completion...and offers help to others planning the same journey...
The prospect of being involved
in the planning and helping to in uence the design of a brand new science facility was like a dream come true. When our outgoing Headmaster, Michael Hall, con rmed that he wished to pursue a new build, my colleagues and I could
not believe it. For several years
prior to the project being given the go-ahead I had been meeting with potential architects and visiting other schools as we carried out scoping exercises, evaluating the merits of refurbishment and new- build, recognising that our facilities had to be modern.
So why a new science block? The sciences had grown steadily in popularity at Bedford Modern School (BMS) even when nationally numbers were in decline. Twenty years ago it was common to  nd 25-30 students taking each of Biology, Chemistry and Physics from a cohort of 130. Now, with a slightly larger Sixth Form of c. 150 in Year 12 we  nd 50-60 students taking each subject to A Level.
wowed by what I saw at PGS and it certainly in uenced our own project planning.
Fast forward some  ve years from that visit to PGS and I am writing this piece from the second  oor of our own wow-factor building just 18 months after work  nally started. Compromise has been necessary of course as buildings are signi cant investments and not surprisingly this was the biggest capital project that BMS had embarked upon
since its move to the current site in 1974. One constraint which became apparent more than two and half years ago was that we would not be able to provide every member
of staff with their own laboratory. Aside from the obvious budgetary implications, the local planning authorities were keen to assess our need for the proposed building with 17 laboratories and con rm that the school was not looking to expand the site to take more students.
Flexibility is key to our new facility and each laboratory is built on the model of  ve,  xed service towers around which there are movable tables. This allows the teacher to con gure the classroom as they wish or as be ts the lesson activity. At the front of each laboratory
is an interactive projector which has the same capability as an interactive whiteboard and can handle multiple inputs, offering split screen projection. Each unit is also connected to Apple TV which
allows easy management of apps including YouTube and BBC iPlayer. The teacher connects via a hard wire USB 3 port or wirelessly so that they can be mobile within the classroom. There is also a whiteboard wall to write on in each lab.
The main atrium is also a  exible teaching space which is  tted with movable seating and tables to facilitate all types of non-practical work. The method of display is a 3x3 video wall which can handle multiple inputs, managed from a touch screen. It is even possible to broadcast to the screen via a camera in the laboratory, which would prove useful for demonstrating intricate practical work such as a dissection.
There are three specialist labs on each  oor which are primarily aimed at Sixth Form teaching. Although based on the universal layout they have subtle differences which take account of the nature of the subject. The remaining eight laboratories
are designed to be multi-purpose and are identical in all respects.
This offers maximum  exibility in allocating rooms as I am no longer constrained by departmental design differences.
The building offers potential to
be a learning tool in itself. There
is kinetic  ooring in the entrance which is linked to a monitor which displays how much energy has been converted over a period of time.
In the atrium there is a Foucault
Pendulum and on the  rst  oor an interactive Periodic Table display. These fantastic additions help
bring science to life and have been donated by our parents, the Parents Association and the Old Bedford Modernians Club.
On a practical level there is ample storage and preparation space located at one end of the building. It is possible for the technicians
to transport equipment through interconnecting doors between the labs during breaks. During lesson time the corridors are used and this means that there is now no potential for collision between a stacked trolley and a student.
Staff have a personal locker in
a secure area plus a substantial cupboard to store their teaching resources located within the staff workroom. This of ce is  tted with  ve  xed PCs as well as an additional quiet work area.
I am pleased with the end result and, although it is not perfect (I discovered long ago that I would have to accept that perfection could not be achieved on a budget), it is
a fantastic building which will be  t for purpose way into the future. Having been through this project, it has been an education in itself. If anyone is in a similar position and would like to have a look around, please do not hesitate to contact me, I would be only too happy to show you around.
Once the green light had been
given it was time to translate our
thoughts into reality. One of the
most important parts of the process
was to visit several schools who had
been through the process. The most
in uential visit was to Portsmouth
Grammar School (PGS) where the
then Head of Science had been
through the process of a new build
in a relatively short timescale. I was
Bedford Modern School. Manton Lane, Bedford, MK41 7NT 01234 332500
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