What they did
This 136-pupil special school is in the National Forest and natural and sustainable materials have been used for its new building wherever possible.
Many pupils spend long periods in hospital so the headteacher was determined that their new school would not have institutionalised corridors. The main one has curved walls with giant images of woodlands throughout the seasons. The floor looks like a river and the lower part of the walls resemble grass.
At the centre of the school, oak trees appear to drape themselves over a woodland floor and the children activate the sound of birdsong and water as they move. An eight-foot oak leaf greets visitors at reception. Pupils were involved in the design brief.
The building is sustainable. It has a wind turbine that provides about 7 per cent of the electricity it needs and a rainwater harvesting and recycling system produces water to flush the toilets.
The school is now held up as a nationwide model for special needs education. In September, more than 80 people, including headteachers, Department for Children, Schools and Families' representatives and local education authority officials and architects, came to explore the building.
According to headteacher Lynn Slinger, the calming effect it has had on the children's behaviour and the sense of security it has given them has been a revelation. "What we have learnt in the process of the design, construction and operation of the building, I believe, can be invaluable for new school buildings in other areas."
What the judges said
The judges were delighted with this "very special school". They said: "The building has flair, imagination and functionality. This outstanding project combines a range of aesthetics with a brilliant choice of materials." They praised the "massive child and parent involvement".
About the awards
The TES Schools Awards, or TESSAs, celebrate and reward the professionalism and flair of teams making an outstanding contribution to primary and secondary schools in the maintained and independent sectors. This year's event attracted hundreds of entries and the panel of judges was impressed by their range and quality. Next year's TESSAs will be held at the Grosvenor House Hotel on June 17, 2010, and is open for entries at www.tes.co.ukawards.