Client: Hertfordshire Council/Ashe Construction
Location: Stevenage
Status: Complete

The design and delivery of The Valley School, for Special Educational Needs pupils aged 11-16 years, tested conventional approaches to special education needs school design, but adheres to the DfE standards and that of the Local Authority. Based on a culture of high levels of passive supervision, the ethos of the school is to have ‘no boundaries’ to the school site or within the building and allow free egress to pupils, both internally and externally. Working through a series of themed Client Engagement Meetings over a matter of weeks, the whole design team was able to respond to the needs of users and sponsors to achieve the designed commercially acceptable solution.

The school is arranged on a single storey around 2 courtyards to create a unique, high-quality learning and living environment responding to the very specific needs of the school and its setting. Teaching areas within the school have been split into a series of ‘year family areas’, located around the periphery of the school; National Curriculum year areas, each containing classrooms, social and dining areas, toilets, sensory and breakout areas to provide a variety of different learning spaces, both inside and out, to ensure that the pupils learn within groups that are large enough to support dynamic learning activities and small enough to embed secure and deep relationships with each other and with a dedicated team of adults.

Additional focus has been on sustainability with the project achieving net zero carbon in operation, with emphasis on thermally efficient fabric, energy efficient plant, green roof areas and photovoltaic panels to the roof. An air permeability of below 1 has been achieved.


‘Seeing the finished design picture brought tears to my eyes. Saunders Boston has fully embraced our vision, bought into our beliefs about learning, put the needs of our pupils at the heart of his design and created something that was even better than we could have imagined...   Our pupils and staff will finally have the school buildings that they deserve and they will be both beautiful and practical.'