Laura Lincoln takes us behind the scenes of the design and construction of Notting Hill & Ealing’s new sustainable junior school building.
Last week, Notting Hill & Ealing High School (NHEHS) marked the official opening of its new state-of-the-art junior school with a ‘Building the Future’ careers discussion, which was chaired by the GDST’s chief executive, Cheryl Giovannoni. The sustainable and inspiring new learning space is not only an exemplar of the GDST’s approach to sustainability and the built environment, but a source of immense pride as it was led by a female project team from design through to construction.
Laura Lincoln, senior project manager at the GDST and Sydenham High School alumna, shares her personal highlights from the project, her mission to encourage more girls to take an interest in STEM and the unexpected joy that a construction crane brought to NHEHS’ junior pupils.
We start by asking Laura about her ‘cameo’ in the latest video in our Spotlight Series, which features Lydia, a NHEHS student, physicist, engineering enthusiast and bursary holder. As Lydia explores her noble idea of creating engineering to help society as a whole, we see her surveying the construction site of her school’s new junior building alongside Laura and other members of the female project team. This Spotlight video marked a full circle moment for Laura, who discovered her own love for STEM at a GDST school.
Watch Lydia’s Film
“I have always been passionate about encouraging young people into STEM careers, and inspiring girls in particular to enter fields such as Construction and Project Management.”
She explains: “I have always been passionate about encouraging young people into STEM careers, and inspiring girls in particular to enter fields such as Construction and Project Management. It has been incredible to come back to the GDST and be able to give back to future generations through my work in the estates team. I had some brilliant role models during my time at Sydenham High, so I am proud to take up the mantle, and do the same for the girls in our family of schools.”
The new NHEHS junior school was one of the main projects Laura managed when she joined the GDST three years ago. Before embarking on the new build, the estates team had exhausted all other options such as refurbishment. This is standard procedure for all buildings across the GDST estate to ensure that we are being as responsible and as carbon efficient as possible, by only constructing new buildings when we need to.
The building has been constructed with materials that relate to the natural world, which means there is a neutral colour palette, with furniture and materials chosen to create a calming environment that is more conducive to how girls love to learn. A huge focus has been placed on making improvements to the external spaces, with a science garden, forest school and a new playground surface made of recycled Nike trainers. New specialist learning spaces bring the arts and the sciences together in one location, demonstrating the school’s commitment to nurturing their girls’ interest in both disciplines from their early years at school, and encouraging them to take up STEM and related subjects in their later years.
In keeping with the GDST spirit of listening to our students’ voices, NHEHS pupils were involved in the design from the start and enjoyed regular engagement sessions with the project team. Junior pupils were given tours of the site throughout the construction period – a conscious decision on the part of the project team – as it was an unmissable opportunity for them to get a real-life glimpse into the world of engineering and construction.
“One of my favourite moments from the project was how excited the youngest girls were to see a crane on the site for the first time – one of the pupils asked if it was going to be a school for giants!”
Laura says: “Taking the girls around the construction site and keeping them involved in the build meant that the exciting benefits of learning STEM subjects became more tangible for them. At the time, the junior pupils were housed in their temporary school next door, so they got to see all of the action as it happened. One of my favourite moments from the project was how excited the youngest girls were to see a crane on the site for the first time – one of the pupils asked if it was going to be a school for giants! The older students, on the other hand, were very interested in what type of wood the frame of the building was made from.”
Looking ahead, there are several exciting projects in the pipeline for Laura and the estates team as part of our sustainability strategy to deliver Net Zero by 2050. For now, like many of the incredible women within our alumnae network, she is embracing every opportunity to be a role model for the girls and young women across our family of schools … A true GDST girl for life!
Sustainability at the GDST
The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) are a family of all 23 independent schools and two academies across England and Wales and sustainability is a green thread that runs across everything we do. This includes at our schools, with our students, our estate, our people and partnerships, and how we look forward to a brighter and greener future.
The GDST Alumnae Network
The GDST Alumnae Network is the largest organisation of its kind in the country. There are over 100,000 GDST alumnae from across our family of 25 all-girls schools and the network is increasing every year.