Vern Barnett School

The newly expanded Vern Barnett School in Forestville is a carefully crafted learning environment for primary and secondary students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Offering individualised learning experiences for primary and secondary students with ASD, the fresh design approach is underpinned by current research into Autism, dramatically overhauling tired and outdated classrooms, support facilities and outdoor playgrounds. To meet the needs of students on the Autism Spectrum, the design carefully considers colour, acoustics, transition spaces, wayfinding and the relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces.

Established in the 1970s by Andrew Vern Barnett, to cater to the needs of his child on the Autism Spectrum, Vern Barnett School is the first of the Aspect schools. The expansion and upgrade rethinks the layout of the campus, providing a clear main entry and improving circulation pathways so students can more easily move between spaces. Our team is providing specialist education design, master planning, architecture, interior design and landscape services, dramatically overhauling 1300sqm of tired and outdated classrooms, support facilities and outdoor playgrounds, and adding 1400sqm of new structures.

Cameraygal Country
Forestville, New South Wales
Autism Spectrum Australia
Project Contact
Jane McGarry
Tyrone Branigan
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We’re really excited by the recent renovation of our school. The classrooms are specifically designed for children who are on the Spectrum: the acoustics in the room are to support their sensory needs, we have some fantastic playground equipment for children who need a lot of movement.

Anna Brady
Principal, Vern Barnett School

To fit the tight construction budget and to ensure the designs meet the needs of children with ASD, our team applied a modular design approach. We developed a range of robust and cost effective materials and design solutions, which can be tailored to campus-specific needs while establishing a consistent look and feel across multiple locations. Modular components include improved indoor/outdoor transition spaces, sensory spaces, new and upgraded playgrounds, school hall classroom layouts, joinery, colour selection, all designed specifically for children on the Autism Spectrum.

The design is so beautifully considered, the spaces have a calming and focusing effect on the students, and the staff are so proud of their “new” School. We especially appreciate your practical, open-minding, and hands-on, approach to satisfying all the stakeholders (no easy task, at times)!

Victoria Minter, Project Manager
Construction Assignments

Great outdoors

A new COLA (Covered Outdoor Learning Area) is the heart of the school, providing ‘learning though play’ opportunities for students. Cantilevered roofing with minimal structure creates a large outdoor playground space that can used year-round, including on overly rainy and sunny days. Connection to the surrounding bushland is captured through colour and material selection, with a palette of muted greens, blues and pinks resonating with the surrounding trees and sky. Natural timber-look veneers in the joinery and flooring also resonate with the bushland setting and provide a calm environment for the students.

Our landscape team developed the concept design for the outdoor areas, specifying a balance of nature play zones and equipment to meet the needs of both children who need a lot of movement, and others who prefer quieter sensory connection.

Digitally enabled

The new school features a range of learning and environmental technologies to complement classroom learning and assist educators, support workers and children with individualised learning environments. These include smart boards, integrated tablets, wi-fi and adjustable lighting.

Pablo Alvarez - DesignInc Sydney

Pablo Alvarez

Senior Designer, Sydney