Like many others in the industry we experienced the frustration of the Building Schools For The Future programme where we were kept at arms length from users, and where teams bidding against each other wasted huge amounts of time and money on unrealised designs. The problems that BSF, the subsequent Priority School Building Programme and Free Schools were intended to address have not gone away. If anything, they are getting more urgent.
The pressures on current school buildings are huge. We are living through a period of huge population growth with a birth rate that continues to rise. The reality is that there are insufficient school spaces for all children, currently a problem which affects primary schools but soon also to be a significant secondary school issue too. The situation is compounded by an aging building stock and public spending being at an all time low, with our ability to invest constrained by the bigger financial issues across the world’s economy.
How then do we ensure we provide the best school buildings for future generations to learn in?
As a profession, architects have a huge amount to offer the school conundrum. Architects are naturally enquiring people. We have an ability to see the bigger picture and can objectively review the state of the estate. We can look past any adhoc additions to propose the creative re-use of existing buildings even where the school must remain in operation throughout. We can design new buildings which work well within the existing campus, or as a standalone school.
We teamed up with the Architect’s Journal to promote further discussion on the design and delivery of school buildings. Over the next few months we want to actively seek out opinions around school design with other school experts; so architects, educationalists, school communities, headteachers, funding bodies, clients, councils, the Government, and whoever else will speak to us.
With an election round the corner, this appears an optimum time to keep school design on the radar. We need to understand the policies of each of the political parties, and review the impact of a possible change on government (or not). How can government policy inform better school design, and how can architects inform better policy?
Ultimately, can we develop an action plan to enable the delivery of appropriately designed quality school places with children at the heart of the proposals? Come on architects – we can do it!
“How then do we ensure we provide the best school buildings for future generations to learn in?”