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The Wells Free School


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The school has recently applied for planning permission in order to install an external fire escape to the rear elevation of the building.

Why is there a need for an external fire escape?

The school building currently has one main stairwell and escape route from its two top floors where there are 5 classrooms and a number of general use rooms. Numbers of people on each floor are strictly restricted to ensure everyone's safety in the event of an evacuation. However, due to these restrictions, it is not currently possible to fully utilise all the available rooms on these floors even with the current school roll of 175 children.

Over the last 4-5 years, there has been an increasing demand on school places for our Reception class from families living very close to the school (within 0.5 mile). As a result, each year, a growing number of families are unable to secure a place for their child at their local school. With the completion of the new housing development behind the school, this has further increased the pressure on school places.

We are a walking school and, to help reduce traffic congestion in the local area, we believe we need to be able to offer a place to every child living within close proximity to the school e.g in its catchment area. In the last 3 years, all our Reception children (whose families are new to the school), live within walking distance of the school.

In September 2019, we increased our Reception class size from 24 to 30 in order to be able to offer more places to local families. We will continue to do so as long as there is local need. In 2021, these children will need to transfer to a classroom on one of the two top floors. This will further increase the total number on these floors and mean that we will exceed the current number permitted due to fire regulations. 

By having an external fire escape, we will be able to evacuate all our classes quickly and safely. We will also be able to fully utilise the school building to its potential as well as expand our school roll to accommodate 30 children each new school year in our Reception class.

Financial implications

There are also important financial considerations to increasing our school roll. School budgets are extremely tight and, in order to continue to offer the very best educational opportunities for our children, we need to generate additional income. If the school is unable to expand further, it will place significant financial burden on its current provision and result in unwanted cut-backs, which are likely to impact on the quality of education we can provide.

Location and design 

The location of the fire escape has been carefully considered, its location gives maximum space separation between itself and the neighbouring housing. At the same time, the impact on the street scene and the Conservation Area has also been taken into account. This puts the stair at the centre of the rear, west elevation and as close to the School as possible so that it 'hugs' the rear elevation.

Unfortunately this does mean that the stair will need to be located on our rear playground. However, in order to counter-act this, the school will operate staggered break and lunchtimes to reduce the number of children using the playground at any one time. This will therefore halve the current usage at busiest times and ensure that our children have plenty of space to play with their friends.

It is proposed that the design will have a perforated metal siding material which will give the stair a grey clad appearance. The perforated sheeting will give full protection to users of the stair and will also stop them having views into neighbouring gardens so that the neighbours amenity is protected.
The staircase will be formed in steel work and the supporting structure will also be painted steel and fixed back to the building. At lower ground/ playground level, the frame will be on just two steel posts to minimise the impact on the playground.
The scheme also proposes a simple steel canopy to the base of the West elevation to provide weather protection to perimeter of the building in this location. The canopy will be built of steel posts with a simple steel sheeting roof and gutter.  


Below are links to the plans which have been submitted subject to approval. If you have any further questions, please contact operations@thewellsfreeschool.co.uk

Planning statement