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CABE school criteria branded ‘bizarre’

CABE’s school design review process has come under fire from one of the nation’s largest educational bodies for failing to recognise the needs of future school design

In an exclusive discussion for the AJ’s Designing for Education supplement, Sylvia McNamara, who is heading up Birmingham’s £2.4 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, slammed the commission for judging schemes by criteria that have little relevance to educational facilities.

‘I find it bizarre that education doesn’t feature in [CABE’s ‘10 Points for a Well-Designed School’],’ said McNamara.

‘Why would functionality in terms of entrance and exit or in terms of services be more important than what [the building] is doing for children in terms of learning?’ she added.

The last 12 reviews carried out by CABE suggest schools throughout the UK are struggling to meet the criteria, with just half receiving a ‘good’ rating.

Gary Boydell – an associate with Maber Architects, whose Heritage Community School in Derbyshire (pictured) was branded ‘not yet good enough’ by CABE – agreed, saying: ‘I believe CABE’s 10 points are a good set of criteria in general, [but] perhaps they should also include a number of points related to the delivery of the educational curriculum.’

Meanwhile, another architect working on the Birmingham BSF programme, who did not want to be named, said: ‘CABE needs to consider an alternative approach. They are looking at the design from the outside in, whereas for a school to work it needs to be designed from inside out.’

Matt Bell, CABE director of campaigns and education, contested this view: ‘It’s frankly bonkers to suggest that education doesn’t feature in the 10 criteria. They explicitly ask if the design will inspire learning, and if the teaching spaces will meet the needs of the curriculum.

‘Functionality matters because if you don’t get the environmental strategy right, for example, you’ll have pupils dozing off in the classroom because the ventilation’s flawed,’ added Bell.

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