Joinedupdesign for Academies

2006 – 2009

Joinedupdesign for Academies gives pupils a voice in the development of new academies.

The programme works alongside secondary schools and colleges as they transition into academies. Adapted from the joinedupdesignforschools and Young Design Programme models, it invites local primary and secondary pupils to have a say in their new places of learning. Each project often involves the complete redesign and rebuild of existing buildings.

The Challenge: Client teams learn about common issues in school design and identify what they would like from their new academy


The Visit: Pupil clients from the City Academy visit Studio E Architects to meet the project’s designers and to learn about their working practices


The Brief: Clients create their Pupils’ Brief in a collective workshop led by the Sorrell Foundation


The Brief: The finalised Pupils’ Brief sets out each client teams’ vision for their new academy


Presentation: A young client presents her team’s Pupils’ Brief to the project’s local authority and commercial stakeholders


Site Visit: The City Academy client team attend a site visit with contractors and architects to monitor construction of their new school


Celebration: The completed City Academy in Hackney opened in 2009


The pupils form client teams, representing the views of the current school communities. Client teams are paired with undergraduate design students from universities, who are mentored by professional designers and architects. The students help the client teams to consider common issues in school design, and to identify what they would like from their new academies.

Together they develop a Pupils’ Brief that sets out the client team’s vision, and includes design concepts from the university students. The brief informs the project’s architects, sponsors, governors and local authorities, providing valuable insights from the school’s future users.

“I hope this experience is repeated, so other children can have the opportunity that we have had in the actual creation of a building”.

– Pupil client, The City Academy, Hackney

“I feel proud because when we grow up, we can say to our children, ‘oh yeah, I went to that school and I designed it!’”

– Pupil client, The City Academy, Hackney

“It is both inspirational and grounding for architects to engage with the end users of a building, and a pupil client team can provide a vital insight into the young people’s perspective”.

– Andrzej Kuszell, Studio E Architects

 “The pupils’ presence was a breath of fresh air”.

– Chris Tredget, Willmott Dixon

“The programme is a huge learning curve for pupils, including a newfound confidence and a way of working with other children”.

– Headteacher, Berger Primary School


The Pupils’ Brief marks the beginning of the process; it also describes how client teams can continue their engagement. Pupil clients become an extension of the project team, contributing to decision-making, and collaborating with architects and planners in the design and build.

Both pupils and students acquire valuable transferable skills, such as problem solving, teamwork and communication, whilst gaining knowledge of the creative industries. Pupils develop a real sense of ownership and pride in their new academies.

The programme demonstrates how the education sector can be joined up with local authorities, sponsors and professionals to benefit everyone involved. The model can be adapted to suit any new school build or refurbishment.


The City Academy, Hackney: The Story of Pupil Involvement

In 2007, the Sorrell Foundation supported pupil involvement in the development of the City Academy. This publication documents the process, and can be used to inform other school development projects. The wider programme included a further nine academy projects, working with over 20 feeder schools.

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