The business of boarding

Sponsored: A deep understanding of the education market and its requirements are what keeps Russell Cawberry out in front

High quality boarding accommodation is potentially one of the leading factors for parents selecting a boarding school for their child. Undoubtedly, the accommodation must provide homely comforts and be a haven for students during term time. An understanding of this key driver, coupled with the absolute necessity of delivering boarding accommodation projects on time, are at the heart of the success of Russell Cawberry Limited, a main contractor based in Surrey who have completed many varied projects for independent schools over the last century. The company’s thorough understanding of all aspects of education – they also work for leading universities such as Imperial College and LSE – means that the site managers are aware of the impact that a major building project can have on a campus and work around the operational commitments of the school and have the highest of standards in terms of safeguarding of students.

The company’s ability to repeatedly deliver projects on time and within budget is evident in the level of client confidence and the fact that 75% of their £33m turnover is generated through repeat business. Russell Cawberry has been the contractor of choice for Ardingly College for the past eight years. “Russell Cawberry has a deep understanding of the education market and a recognition of the impact that their works can have if not carefully managed,” said Paddy Jackman, Director of Operations at Ardingly. Having delivered a variety of work at the College both out of and during term time, Russell Cawberry has provided Ardingly with a bespoke approach to each project. “They have drawn plaudits from students, staff, parents and governors not only for the finished product, but perhaps more importantly, their conduct on site,” explained Paddy.

The company’s remit has extended to design bespoke temporary infrastructure and careful logistical planning to ensure the highest levels of safe segregation and movement of students and staff away from and around the works areas. During the extension and refurbishment of Toynbee House, which provides boarding accommodation for girls, half of the building remained occupied throughout a complicated and extensive project. This could have led to significant complaints from students and their parents had Russell Cawberry’s site manager not been constantly aware of the impact of the works and his ability to develop excellent working relationships with all staff from the Housemistress through to the Estates team. The works were completed without incident and on time for the new school term.


Evidence of this success instilled confidence in the client team at Royal Alexandra and Albert School during the tender selection process for the £1.7m refurbishment of Gatton Hall. Russell Cawberry was appointed to undertake the refurbishment of two floors of girls’ boarding accommodation within the Grade-II listed building, together with public rooms on the ground floor. Work was to continue through term time and whilst highly disruptive on the second floor, the girls remained in occupation on the first. Russell Cawberry worked hard with the client team to ensure the highest standards and level of confidence in the safeguarding of the pupils during the programme of works. Services were being renewed in ceilings above occupied areas and the access to the building was limited. A separate and carefully secured entrance to the second and first floor was constructed and a fully DBS-cleared workforce deployed, all easily identifiable wearing branded PPE.

The students gained access to the building via a separate secure entrance and, to meet the additional needs of the school for safeguarding, the company supplied a dedicated female security officer to patrol the first floor during the day with the purpose to prevent any unauthorised access of students during working hours as well as to identify any areas of concern in the ceiling created by the work above. Pierce Ryan, Managing Director of Russell Cawberry, explained: “We were keen from the outset to provide assurance and confidence to the school that the safeguarding of the students was our main priority throughout the course of the work. We were happy to develop bespoke logistics with the client team.”

The project is ahead of schedule and due to complete in time for the 2018–19 academic year, when the work will be finalised with the internal refurbishment of the ‘event’ space at ground floor level and some external repairs and redecoration of the Grade-II listed hall.

Gatton Hall

With Russell Cawberry’s reputation within the sector established as a reliable and quality contractor, delivering their promises with the highest regard for student safety, the team lead by Pierce Ryan, MD, tendered for the College Boarding House refurbishment project at Eton College, a £4m total refurbishment of student accommodation within the heart of the occupied College and the Grade-I listed building. Phase 1, which was to be completed ready for the boys to take occupation on return from Easter holidays, was achieved in April 2018 and the team moved forward to Phase 2 which comprised the complete refurbishment of the Masters’ accommodation, and finally the restoration and refurbishment of the lower school which dates back to 1441 and believed to be the oldest operational classroom in the world.

However, Russell Cawberry not only have the skills and experience to restore historic elements which are often a feature of independent schools, they are also able to construct and fit out innovative and state-of-the-art facilities to meet the needs of modern-day teaching. Currently on site at Ardingly, they are constructing a ‘state-of-the-art’ science building in the heart of the school grounds. The new building constructed around a concrete frame and on piled foundations will take 48 weeks to complete and will provide the facilities needed to develop additional laboratory capacity coupled with ground-floor Design Technology spaces. When fitting out the new building, Russell Cawberry will draw on their experience of installing highly innovative and world-class laboratories and teaching facilities within some of London’s most prestigious research universities.

Russell Cawberry also benefits from a range of in-house services including mechanical and electrical, ceilings and partitions, and painting and decorating, as well as a directly employed workforce of skilled operatives all of whom undergo regular DBS checks and clearance. This not only adds value to clients through efficiencies and cost savings, but also facilitates the ability to quickly mobilise teams with the required skills to work within occupied schools. This lack of reliance on subcontractors creates a very loyal and well-motivated team who all have tremendous pride in the finished project. Finally, all projects are overseen with a ‘hands-on’ management style approach of the company directors, therefore ensuring the highest levels of client service, accessibility and quick decision-making.

If you would like to learn more about Russell Cawberry, their wide experience and thorough knowledge of working within the education sector and the impact a building project can have on your school, please email or call 020 8643 9521.

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