Bertha Park High School

NORR Consultants Limited

Winner of the Scottish Transforming Learning Award for 2019, Bertha Park High School is generally regarded as the most innovative secondary school environment yet built in Scotland. But to fully appreciate it, please go and visit. Listen to the headteacher Stuart Clyde explain to you how this building not just meets its brief but transcends it. The school fully embraces new ways of learning through the creation of truly collaborative learning spaces that provide both intimacy and grandeur. Expectations are challenged, corridors are eroded and natural light is joyfully exploited.  

The richness of the interior is based on an inventive brief driven by an excellent client, a brief which also allowed the provision of a genuinely radical design whilst still being below the relevant Scottish Futures Trust metric. This is true, palpable value. The project had a limited budget of £2,400/m2 which it spends very wisely, demonstrating powerfully that embracing new ways of learning can lead to not just enhanced value, but to a richer and more stimulating design as well, which is here enclosed by a highly civic, site specific form that generates a memorable sense of place. 

Forming the focal point of a new and expanding residential area, this very large building had to carefully manipulate its scale to sit successfully within its lower scaled environment. With the construction of an adjacent primary school, the project will in due course form part of an overall civic campus for its growing community, the expansion for which has also been designed by NORR. Arranged on a north-south axis, the school presents a taller, more formal and highly glazed frontage to the north which attractively puts learning on show to its wider community whilst, in contrast, the lower scaled southern end of the building provides access to the school’s main social area from its south-facing playground.

The project is unique in Scotland in that it is an entirely new school, as opposed to replacing an existing one, with incremental occupation from August 2019. The headteacher has therefore been in the enviable position of being able to recruit every single member of staff to assist in the delivery of a fully digitally enabled curriculum within this highly contemporary facility. In recognition of this, the school is one of only 17 in the world that form part of the Microsoft Flagship Initiative.

The project’s compact form is also intrinsically sustainable, thermally efficient and complemented by a simplicity of construction detailing, the repetition of common window components, and the controlled use of a limited palette of materials based around a simple steel frame behind a predominantly brick facade. Other features include:

• A truly excellent external floor to wall area ratio (with a “Form Factor” of just 0.8)
• Plant spaces within the volume of the roof space to minimise service runs and energy usage.
• PV panels to the south-facing roof slope.
• A hybrid ventilation system.
• Excellent insulation levels bettering the requirements of the current Scottish Building Standards by a minimum of 25%.
• An excellent airtightness rating - 3.7 m3/m2/hr at 50Pa air pressure test, again considerably better than the technical standards.
• A biomass boiler is used as the heating source.
• Energy efficient heat recovery and LED lighting is used throughout.
• Lightwells are used to add spatial drama and increased natural light to lower levels.

In this way, the project represents a compelling and sustainable blend of quality and value, its simple, elegant yet highly civic exterior containing a spatially rich and educationally interesting interior. 

The project is of course fully inclusive with egalitarian use provided throughout for all, whatever their disability may be, but above all the school demonstrates that the collaborative society which created it believes in its young people, all of whom seem to genuinely love their new school. You can see it on their faces and hear it in their voices and it really is a pleasure to see the building’s diverse range of joyful leaning spaces being used so effectively.

“Not only have NORR designed a modern, forward-looking and beautiful learning facility, they have been absolutely involved in the finer intricacies of creating our school. Their design is a complete break from the school building norm and is absolutely fit for purpose for 21st Century teaching and learning – we couldn’t be happier with the finished product”. 

Procurement Route: D+B through East Central Hub
SFT Target: 11.0m2/pupil; actual 10.69m2/pupil.
Programme: 2016 - 2019, delivered on time, on budget.


Perth and Kinross


W I Talbot LLP

Structural Engineer

Goodson Associates

M&E Engineer

TÜV SÜD Wallace

Project Manager

Perth and Kinross

Main Contractor


Gross Internal Area


Contract Value


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