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Refurbishment works conclude following merger of two historic schools

Construction work has now concluded after an extensive refurbishment programme resulting from the merger of two of the country’s oldest schools – Durham School and The Chorister School.

From September 2021, Durham School and The Chorister School, which have shared a heritage of 600 years, began to operate under one single Foundation known as The Durham Cathedral Schools Foundation.

Preparatory work began for the award-winning architect, Howarth Litchfield, during the summer of 2020, when the practice was appointed jointly by Durham Cathedral and Durham School to undertake building condition surveys of The Chorister School buildings, which are a mixture of Grade I, II and II* listings and to develop a schedule of works and necessary repairs.

By June 2021, the firm embarked on the necessary construction work to enhance the learning environment for students with a brief to ensure that all construction work was completed and the newly refurbished areas ready in time for the start of the new academic year.

Neil Turner, director and conservation architect of Howarth Litchfield, says: “Due to a long-term relationship with the cathedral, which has developed over the years on the back of successful project completions, and particularly due to our extensive conservation and ancient buildings’ knowledge, we were appointed directly by Durham Cathedral to provide architectural, interior design and principal designer services for the necessary improvement works.

“These included refurbishment of six existing rooms – the IT suite, a teaching room, boarders’ common room and medical room.  The completed work has enhanced the learning experience for students of all ages with updated facilities and forms the first phase of improvement works with upgrades to other areas planned in the future.”

Kieran McLaughlin, Durham School’s current head, and the first principal of the new Foundation, said:

“The investment in facilities allows us to offer a more vibrant boarding experience and through the merger, we have been able to combine the strengths of both schools and build on the strong heritage and values they have shared for over 600 years.

“There are also many social benefits associated with a larger school community, such as the chance for more pupils to take part in competitive sports teams and greater opportunities to participate in musical and cultural events.

“I believe the merged Foundation offers a strong and vibrant future for both schools with outstanding academic, pastoral and co-curricular opportunities for all pupils and will further enhance the provision of independent education within the City of Durham.”

Neil Turner continued: “In our role as principal designer, we were also involved in the appointment of Vest Construction to undertake the necessary building work.

“Vest was chosen after a competitive tender from a shortlist of contractors from which five were invited to tender having initially expressed their interest.  After assessing the tenders on a 60:40 cost versus quality scoring, Vest scored the highest out of the four submissions returned.”

Maya Polenz, head of property at Durham Cathedral, added: “We were pleased to work with Howarth Litchfield and Vest Construction on the necessary refurbishment works as both companies have a full and thorough understanding of working with historic buildings.  The completion of works means that pupils of both schools can now benefit from an enhanced educational experience at every level.”