All Building Schools for the Future (BSF) design briefs must face a 'fundamental review as a matter of urgency', according to a CABE audit.
The huge initiative is in danger of badly letting down Britain's children if it fails to up the architectural ante, the watchdog's report into the education scheme goes on.
CABE has called for the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to suspend funding for individual BSF batches if high design standards are not being met.
The CABE report warns that 50 per cent of school designs currently in the pipeline are not up to standard.
The report, released yesterday, says that if these standards are not quickly improved the government's aim of 'transforming our children's education' will fail.
Among the report's other recommendations are:
practical and individual support for headteachers, so that they are familiar with the complexities of the procurement process, and the help available to them;
provision by the DfES of expert seminars, workshops and tours of 'inspirational' buildings to raise the level of ambition; and
all design proposals prepared by the private sector to be submitted to a DfES-led schools review panel for approval.
CABE chief executive Richard Simmons said school design standards were simply not good enough.
'On average, five schools will be rebuilt or refurbished every week for the next 13 years. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve our children's education and we need to make sure we get it right,' he said.
'It's clear from our audit that there are simply not enough schools being built or designed at the moment that are exemplary, inspiring, innovative or flexibly designed.
'It's imperative that the government allows time for design and doesn't compromise quality for speed,' Simmons added. by Ed Dorrell