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Cash shortage closes British Council for School Environments

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The UK’s leading campaign group for better school architecture has been forced to close with immediate effect due to funding uncertainty

The shutdown comes after the organisation struggled to cover its costs in the wake of Building for Schools’ closure two years ago.

In a statement British Council for School Environments (BCSE) said it was unable to overcome a ‘myriad of challenges’  brought on by the reduction in capital funding to schools.

Trustees reviewed the body’s financial projections in late December but were unwilling to increase the membership fee because of the ‘precarious’ economic climate.

Setup six years ago, the charity championed high quality school design on behalf of two hundred members including local authorities, schools and companies.

Nightingale Associates, Jestico and Whiles and AJ Woman Architect of the Year-winner Walters and Cohen were part of the BCSE.

Richard Mazuch, director of design research and innovation at Nightingales commented BCSE’s end was a ‘great shame.’ He said: ‘The BCSE has been a catalyst for much innovative thinking and has instigated a substantial drive towards creating optimal learning environments and has left a significant legacy for generations to come.’

Cindy Walters of Walters and Cohen said the closure was ‘very sad’. ‘They had developed a good relationship with the education funding agency and they were doing the decent schools standard which was very good. All of that is going to be lost.’

Jestico and Whiles’ Heinz Richardson said: ‘The demise of the BCSE is emblematic: how can there be a British Council for School Environments, when ministers of the British Government apparently believe there is no connection between the design quality of the country’s school environments and the effect on those who teach and learn within them?’

Its closure comes as government school design policy continues to be mired in controversy following the latest announcement of plans to make buildings 15 per cent smaller.

Fresh research claimed better classroom environments could increase academic attainment by as much as 25 per cent, exposing the potential risks of downsizing. Government proposals to deploy standardised templates for schools were also blasted by the RIBA.

It’s clear that the myriad challenges we’re facing means we cannot continue to operate

BCSE chair Rachel Jones said: ‘Like many charities, we have been struggling for some time to raise enough money to keep the organisation going. This is partly due, of course, to the impact of the loss of capital funding in the education arena over the last two years. Despite our best efforts, it’s clear that the myriad of challenges we’re facing means we cannot continue to operate.

‘We are agreed we cannot, in good faith, ask for further resources when the economic climate is so precarious.

‘The trustees have regretfully decided, therefore, that the organisation should close immediately.

‘We do so with a heavy heart and much sadness – there is still much to be done to ensure all our teachers, children and communities get the learning environments they want and need.

‘Our thanks go to all of those who have supported us over the years.’

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Depressing news. This seems to be yet another negative indictment of our times where real support to ensure design quality is being dismantled at worst and diluted at best. We all remember our school environments vividly for the rest of our lives - this is probably the first place we become aware of the causes and effects of good and bad environments on our daily life. We need bodies to protect and ensure certain standards of quality, and these bodies not to be reliant on charity alone.

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