Honey, I shrunk the schools
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.
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?