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Good design not cash is key to schools making the grade

The link between greater investment in school buildings and the performance of pupils has been thrown into doubt by new research unveiled last week.

The research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) on behalf of the government is based on quantitative studies across almost 2,000 schools and concludes that 'there is at best a weak relationship between capital and performance and sometimes no relationship at all. The estimated relationship is not universally positive, nor is it universally significant.'

But despite these gloomy findings, the PWC report found evidence of 'a strong positive relationship' between the impact of school design and educational achievement. Interviews with staff in 27 schools also showed that capital investment has a strong influence on teacher motivation, pupil motivation and the amount of learning which actually takes place (by reducing travel time between lessons).

The findings were broadly welcomed by Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment commissioner Sunand Prasad, who said they showed that the careful application of investment through high-quality design is more important than just higher levels of investment alone in educational buildings.

'The report seems to be encouraging, ' he said.

'Investment ought to be based on a sound assessment of the quality of design as we learn more and more about the impact of design on pupil performance.'

The results were published as the secretary of state for education, David Blunkett, announced a £4 billion three-year rebuilding and refurbishment programme at 650 schools across the country.

'Getting the basics right is not just about literacy and numeracy - it also means putting the right facilities in place so that teachers can teach and children can learn, ' Blunkett said.

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