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You are in: Kent > BBC Radio Kent > Features > Architecture Week > The Marlowe Academy, Ramsgate

Marlowe Academy buildings

The Marlowe Academy, Ramsgate

Whatever your age, we bet your school wasn't like this one. Asked to design a building that was modern and functional and would improve exam marks too, this is what architects Building Design Partnership came up with.

Julie Maddocks dropped in to the Marlowe Academy to see if it's really true that a new type of school building can really improve exam marks.

The first two words that spring to mind when you arrive at the Academy are "yellow" and "red". Those two primary colours dominate the outer face of the school building and make it very clear very quickly that this is not your average high school.

Aerial view of cafe area

No bench seats in this dining area

Inside the automatic doors, you enter a reception/cafe area, which is the heart of the school. Break times are staggered here, so that not all of the 700 pupils eat at once, and they have the chance and space to meet with their friends without feeling the intimidation often associated with big schools.

The main reception area is semi circular, flanked on one side by huge white doors. These open up to reveal the school's piece de resistance, a fully working theatre.

Principal Ian Johnson explained that this give him the ability to stand on stage, in the middle of the space, for assemblies and so on. It's a similar idea to that used centuries ago in London's Globe theatre.

But it's not just the assembly area that is unusual. Everywhere in the school is flooded with light, due mainly to the huge wooden and glass roof. It curves in three ways, and is a work of art in itself.

The Marlowe Academy was built to replace the much maligned Ramsgate School, a school which gained national notoriety for its low exam marks.

The school's design has been likened to a ship

The open plan walkways remind some of a ship

During the building of the new Academy, it was agreed that one way to improve marks is to improve respect among pupils and teachers. To gain respect, you need to build trust, which is why there are learning bays throughout the school, for pupils to do homework and open plan walkways and bridges replacing corridors. Ian Johnson said: "From the walkways, we can see everything that's going on, and the pupils can see us. My office is in the middle of the school, and that's open plan, so it's all a lot more open."

So what's all the yellow and red about then? The bold colours show that this is a new building, it's not the old school and doesn't have the same issues attached to it.

Inside, the walls are deliberately painted white, which might sound an odd choice for a building housing 700 teenagers, but once again it's about respect. The pupils want a clean school, and white shows the marks so they work harder to keep it clean. Plus it gets repainted every so often to keep it looking pristine.

The wooden and glass roof slopes three ways

The wooden and glass roof slopes three ways

The public use the school regularly, the school library is also the local public library, the sports facilities are available to hire, and there are groups lining up to use that theatre.

The school has only been open for one academic year, but already marks have improved on the Ramsgate School, and some students are heading off to university, the first in their families to do so. It's all very different from the old days, but it is starting to appear that there might be something in the theory that a well-built school leads to successful pupils.

last updated: 10/12/2007 at 11:04
created: 15/06/2007

You are in: Kent > BBC Radio Kent > Features > Architecture Week > The Marlowe Academy, Ramsgate

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