Alfreton Park SEN School by Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture

Alfreton Park SEN School is a light-filled, new-build special educational needs and disabilities all-through school in Derbyshire. The parkland setting inspired a design approach meeting the school’s brief to connect pupils with nature, celebrating diverse needs and activities. From its raised position on a tree-lined hill, the school blends into the landscape’s natural contours, using green-coloured panelling.

The final siting of the school is inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s house at Taliesin, following his view to ‘never build on top of anything directly. If you build on top of a hill you lose the hill. If you build one side of the top you have the hill and the eminence that you desire’.

A second reference was the quality of light and openness in Arne Jacobsen’s Munkegaard School in Gentofte, Denmark. Generous rooflights and large screens open up circulation and teaching spaces, offering consistent views across social and learning spaces. Like Munkegaard, Alfreton Park School is filled with ‘social details’, which frame moments in the everyday lives of the pupils. These range from the external walls of the art room, which form a chalkboard canvas, to simple rooflights illuminating entrances to classrooms.
Wayne Head, director, Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture


Project data

Start on site October 2020
March 2022
Construction cost
£13.2 million
Gross internal area 3,000m²
Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture
Derbyshire County Council
Structural engineer
Price & Myers
M&E consultant
Method Consulting
Quantity surveyor Faithful & Gould
Project manager
Derbyshire County Council
Principal designer Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture
Approved building inspector Derbyshire County Council
Main contractor Henry Brothers
Landscape architect Wynne-Williams Associates
CAD software used Vectorworks
Annual CO2 emissions (estimated) 20.4 kgCO2/m2 
Predicted design life 60 years


Architect’s choices

Achieving a deep-green single colour externally was important for embedding within the landscape, but it is offset by the vibrant red of the hall ‘wing’. Rheinzink’s artCOLOR range offered a high-quality depth of colour, a durable finish, precise detailing and end-of-use recyclability.

Velfac composite windows offered high energy efficiency, a colour match externally and natural timber internally.

The colourful internal joinery is key to defining the spaces and moments of social detail. The wide range of mobility equipment likely to bump into walls required a robust finish. Valchromat was selected as a through-coloured and easily machined material that could withstand this environment.
Richard Taylor, associate, Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture




The choice of a simple repeating building section allowed budget for the incorporation of quality materials and finishes. Each classroom opens directly to an outdoor learning and play space, sheltered by an elegant canopy. This provides valuable shade for summer solar gain. Deep green and vibrant red zinc define this distinctive peaked form, with a matching single colour approach to each wing.

It was important to integrate timber finishes to draw in the outdoors, provide contrast and offer the aromatic qualities of this carbon-sequestering material. The soffits of the sheltered overhang are clad
in western red cedar and timber trusses form the structure of the main hall.

Inside, timber-lined ceilings zig-zag up to generous rooflights, providing acoustic treatment and allowing integration of lighting, ventilation and hoists.

Vibrant joinery lines the communal spaces, folding from hidden storage into bench seating, providing opportunities for encounter and gathering alongside quiet, private support spaces. All these gestures were evolved in consultation with the school client and students as ‘social details’.
Richard Taylor, associate, Curl la Tourelle Head Architecture


Selected products

artCOLOR moss-green and tile-red, standing seam at 430mm centres, angled single lock welt cross-joints
Roof and external walls

Terracotta rainscreen tiles
1600mm x 400mm Tonality Terracotta Creaton, RO1 and GR4, 26mm-thick
External walls to teaching spaces

Windows and doors
Velfac 200 Series composite
External walls

Internal joinery
Valchromat, green mint and blue
Classroom storage walls, mobility stores, internal benches

Acoustic ceilings
Stil Acoustics
Slatted timber, red cedar, 38mm/12mm gap, secret fixed with black acoustic wool quilt
Classroom ceilings and walls