A special ground-breaking ceremony has marked the start of construction of a new pioneering joint education campus, to be located in the Fairwater area of the city.
The £110m project is the largest in scale and investment, of Cardiff’s education developments delivered under Cardiff Council and Welsh Governments Band B Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme. The development will include the construction of three new build schools for Cantonian High School, Riverbank School and Woodlands High School, all situated on a single site.
The ground was cut at the site by Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford, Cardiff Council’s Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas and Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Education, Cllr Sarah Merry.
They were joined by Head of School at Cantonian High School, Geraint Jones and Chair of Governors Barbara Connell together withExecutive Headteacher, Wayne Murphyand Chair of Governors Bianca Rees from the Western Learning Federation, of whichRiverbank School and Woodlands High School are both a part of.
Also in attendance were representatives from HLM Architects and ISG the contractors chosen to undertake the detailed design and build for the scheme.
The development will be Net Zero Carbon in line with Welsh Government standards and will set the standard for future Cardiff school projects. Each of the three schools will be highly energy efficient buildings that are powered from renewable energy sources, enabling Cardiff to deliver on its One Planet Strategy, which outlines the city’s ambition to mitigate climate change.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “It’s great to see the construction of the new campus get underway, which will provide young people from Cantonian, Woodlands High and Riverbank with an inspirational and modern learning environment. As well as being Net-Zero carbon, the campus will provide facilities which benefit the community in this part of Cardiff for years to come.
“I’m really pleased the Welsh Government has been able to support the new development, through our Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme, and I look forward to visiting again once the campus is complete.”
Cardiff Council’s Leader, Cllr Huw Thomas said: “When completed, this joint education campus will be the first of its kind for Cardiff and will be one of the most educationally advanced institutions in the UK. Bringing together Cantonian, Woodland and Riverbank Schools on one site as part of this unique and ambitious plan, will provide a distinct combination of learning. Each school will be able to keep its identity and will benefit from shared facilities, expertise and teaching opportunities to deliver an exceptional experience for students, staff and their communities.
“Our first Net Zero Carbon school, this project supports our response to the climate change emergency and aligns with Cardiff’s One Planet vision to become Carbon Neutral by 2030.”
Cardiff’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Education added, “The groundbreaking marks an exciting milestone for the futures of Cantonian, Woodland and Riverbank Schools who have been integral to the planning and vision for the new campus. Pupils, staff, parents and the local community have helped shape the design plans and thought has been given to the diverse range of learner needs so that they feel safe with a clear sense of individuality, and that they can recognise the importance of belonging not only to their individual school but also, to the wider campus.
“Consideration will be given to curriculums and school buildings to support pupils to become ambitious, capable and ready to learn throughout their lives whilst championing healthy, confident individuals, ready to lead fulfilling lives as valued members of society. Not only providing pupils with access to state-of-the art facilities and the highest quality learning environment, the scheme also represents a significant investment in the Fairwater area, ensuring the local community will also benefit from excellent, modern amenities.”
In March 2023, Cardiff Council announced that ISG was selected as the preferred bidder for the design and build of the new joint education campus, to be located in the Fairwater area of the city.
ISG has now undertaken the detailed design process for the scheme and delivered the temporary accommodation associated with the works, ahead of the build. It will now build the remainder of the Net Zero Carbon campus, which will target significant reduction in operational and embodied carbon. This means the three schools will be highly energy efficient buildings that are powered from renewable energy sources, enabling Cardiff to deliver on its One Planet Strategy which outlines the city’s ambition to mitigate climate change.
Richard Skone, regional director for ISG’s Construction business in Wales said: “Richard Skone, Regional Director for ISG’s Construction business in Wales, expressed his thoughts for the groundbreaking at Fairwater campus today: “This venture holds significance for the local community, Cardiff, and Wales overall. The focus on Net Zero premises aligns with the increasing importance of sustainable solutions in schools to combat climate change.
“The targets set by Cardiff council and the Welsh Government resonate with ISG’s commitment, emphasizing the importance of strong collaboration in achieving these shared goals.”
The new campus will include:
- Replacing the Cantonian High School buildings with new build accommodation on the same site expanding the school from six forms of entry (6FE) to eight forms of entry (8FE) with sixth form provision for up to 250 pupils.
- Expanding the Specialist Resource Base (SRB) for learners with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC), hosted at Cantonian High School to 30 places in purpose built accommodation in the new school buildings.
- Relocating Woodlands High School to the Fairwater Campus site from its current site adjacent to Trelai Park and increasing the capacity to 240 places in new build accommodation.
- Relocating Riverbank School to the Fairwater Campus site from its current site adjacent to Trelai Park and increasing the capacity to 112 places in new build accommodation.
The campus will also offer comprehensive facilities which will be available for public use outside of school hours.
It is anticipated that works on the campus will be completed by Autumn 2026 with works on Cantonian High School completing by the end of 2025.