Arvalee Special School (and Resource Centre) is one of the six schools which form the proposed Strule Shared Educational Campus in Omagh.
The Strule project is one of the flagship projects in the Programme for Government 'Building a Strong and Shared Community'. Arvalee Special School is the first to be built on the site (a former military base known as Lisanelly). Five other schools will open in September 2020.
The existing Arvalee school building was destroyed by fire in 2012, and the school has been housed in temporary accommodation since then. The school caters for pupils from age 3 to 19 who have moderate or severe learning difficulties.
CPD has two Education Advisory Branches supporting the Department of Education in delivering school projects.
The CPD staff worked closely with the Strule Project Board to advance the permanent replacement of the Arvalee school building ahead of the other five schools.
Deciding on the rooms and spaces required within the school for learning, teaching and support services involved careful planning and involvement of a network of stakeholders.
With guidance from CPD, the Integrated Consultant Team developed their design proposals to ensure the school's functional needs would be captured, and the architecture would offer well judged, flexible and adaptable accommodation.
The central core of the building forms three 'pavilions', separated with two attractively designed courtyards, and flanked by two 'streets' which provide access to the classroom clusters.
The design is similar in concept to Rathore School in Newry, but has advanced the design further by generating a flowing internal and external circulation with memorable spaces throughout (critical for way-finding for pupils with special educational needs). Exciting opportunities for learning exist everywhere, not just in the assigned classrooms.
The final design was influence by 'continuous improvement' through visits to previously built schools to observe the best educational practice and design solutions, assess them and tweak further to raise the design standard as far as possible.
The finished school has been widely praised on reaching an 'unparalleled standard', with high design quality and delightful ambience.