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Oakfield is a school for pupils with special educational needs, catering for around 90 primary and secondary school age boys with social, emotional and behavioural educational needs.  Marking a major redevelopment of a former school site in suburban east Hull, it also includes residential accommodation for 35 students and 12 staff.  The challenge was to create a bright, airy and relaxed living and learning environment, with a consciously non-institutional feel.

Plain, simple and crisply rectilinear, the three-storey building’s civic presence is asserted by its robust yet inviting materiality.  Long life, low maintenance masonry is employed throughout, a contextual response.  External walls of white facing bricks convey a light and welcoming appearance.  Panels of vibrant green and blue glazed bricks, mirrored to coloured panels on the upper storey, break up the building mass and form a compelling visual contrast.


Spatial organisation is intended to promote a sense of belonging and self-worth, with high levels of visibility, good natural light, clear orientation and wide circulation routes, enabling discreet, passive supervision.  Carefully positioned staff offices constitute an informal yet supportive environment for pupils, with circulation designed as a continuous loop to prevent dead ends.  South facing classrooms take advantage of the best natural light, with direct access to playing fields.

Most spaces are served by natural ventilation, a strategy maximised by the inclusion of high-level clerestory windows, which provide for a cross-flow of air.  Along with exposed thermal mass, this helps to passively temper the internal environment, reducing the building’s overall energy requirements.

The classrooms are the best I've seen in terms of design, furniture solutions and tidiness of the services on the ceiling. The passive supervision certainly works with the opportunity to see into all class bases and down the corridors.

Liz Clutterbrook
Strategic Development Manager, Hull City Council

Early sketch of the plan for Oakfields School, Wright & Wright


  • RIBA Award 2014