Saturday05 September 2015

Honey, I shrunk the schools

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Non-teaching space is under threat, but is that such a bad thing?

Compared to BSF designs the next generation of schools will have less breakout space, which includes corridors, it was announced today.

ICT storage will also become smaller while the actual teaching space will remain the same.

This shrinking of non-teaching space has been rumoured for some time, and led to fears that the reduction could lead to bullying, although it is hard to see how this is the case.

Amanda Baillieu

Amanda Baillieu — editor in chief

And, as one senior official pointed out to BD, the plan to make schools smaller is only taking them back to the size they were before BSF, and the huge increase in teaching assistants. TAs, as they’re known, have been scaled back — schools can’t afford them any longer — so fewer fully-grown adults wandering around the classroom should mean more space for the children.

As for the corridors, I would argue that wider corridors (ditto social space generally) leads to more bullying not less. So is this cut in school size really the shock horror story some have claimed?

The trouble is that despite the years that have elapsed since BSF was scrapped, it remains a touchy subject.

Architects are sore that they continue to be blamed for “fripperies” and for getting rich on the back of the government’s largesse.

This might explain why today’s press release from the Education Funding Agency announcing the new space standards did not include glowing tributes from the profession.

But there are plenty who have welcomed the new designs, including the Theatres Trust, on the grounds that theatres are making a surprise appearance in the new designs. However, the trust doesn’t seem aware that extras like this will not be included in the price that has been set per school of £1,113 per sq m and will need to be funded separately.

It’s clear, too, that contractors stand to do much better out of the next generation of schools than architects. That, of course, was ever the case, but the real question is do Laing O’Rourke and others rushing to show their support for the EFA designs actually need architects at all?

The plans have been drawn up by EFA’s in-house architects. They’re not very elegant, but they’re serviceable and that suits the times. Can architects improve on them — some think they can — or will it be their fees that will be used to fund the extras, like a theatre, that the public sector can no longer afford?




Readers' comments (4)

  • It would be useful to understand just what £1,113/sq.m. will buy. I'd assume this is just for the buildings, and not the landscaping, for example. Are we going to end up with low-ceilinged, dingy spaces? And, to get into the 'nuts and bolts', does this rate include for achieving decent air-tightness, thermal-bridge free and non-toxic construction?
    At times like this, architects with the understanding of how to get the most out of a budget should be the Government's best ally - and not seen as a select group of prima donnas with bankers' morals.

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  • amanda baillieu

    Hi. Just to clairfy . The figure I am quoting is build cost so minus fees and extras like landscaping. Amanda

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  • harriet harriss

    Amanda, please do your 'homework,' if you'll excuse the pun. The relationship between small corridors and recess time pressure, congestion and anti-social behaviour in schools is well established - for example, Brocklehurst (2005), San Antonio et al (2007) and even Dukes (1905) if you can be bothered to span the historical spectrum of data, and that's before we even start exploring what the implications are for DDA compliance. Architects are best placed to fight the (narrow) corner on this one as we are supposed to be all about adding value!
    If we dish out bad schools then all that does is communicate to young people how little we value them.
    A recipe for a time bomb, and a missed opportunity for us.

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  • Corridors are unsung heroes in schools. They have multiple functions, not least flexibility. The point is that the space is established at design stage but it can be used for a wide variety of things apart from movement. Critically, they are wide enough for equipment, should pupils need it, break out areas, extra classrooms, etc. Schools cannot refuse to accept a pupil who needs to use equipment to join in education with other children but we can't magic up wider corridors at a later date. Many schools discover this later, at immense cost. This short film explains a little more. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4pE7tg3eus and ties in well with this BD article
    Classroom design boosts pupil performance by up to 25% | News | Building Design
    Incidentally, DDA was replaced by the Equality Act over 2 years ago.

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