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Government unveils vision for 15% smaller schools

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The government has revealed its vision for a new wave of standardized schools up to 15 per cent smaller and £6 million cheaper than previous designs

Three ‘baseline’ prototypes have been unveiled demonstrating how contractors and architects can shave 30 per cent off the cost of new school buildings.

Designed by Bond Bryan, Anshen and Allen, HLM and the Department for Education’s in-house architects, the schemes comprise two secondary schools – each for 1,200 pupils aged 11 to 16 – and one primary school for 420 pupils, aged 4 to 11.

The examples – which achieve a 15 per cent reduction in secondary school size and a 5 per cent reduction of primary school size – demonstrate requirements for the 261 new buildings set to be procured under the priority schools building programme in the autumn.

It is thought the area decrease would impact most on circulation spaces with more traditional corridors replacing atriums in schools design.

Completed up to RIBA stage C, the schemes can be developed by contractors into detailed designs or substituted for alternatives. While not site-specific, the baselines include one kit of parts design which can be used on awkward shaped sites.

Mike Green, director of capital at the DfE’s new procurement body, the Education Funding Agency, said the ambition was to increase ‘efficiency and innovation’ in the design and construction process.

He said: ‘Without question good design does add value and we will have architects involved in every scheme. This isn’t about getting at contractors or architects. But we are not getting everything designed uniquely and from scratch.’

British Council for School Environments chief executive Nusrat Faizullah commented: ‘Creativity, innovation and smart design can help mitigate space problems, but larger class sizes and smaller classrooms or teaching areas are not a good mix.

The loss of such gathering spaces will surely have a detrimental effect on the social life of schools

‘Wider corridors and large general use spaces help with circulation, limit bullying and create options for use by teachers, children and local communities. We also have concerns about disabled children in mainstream schools, and ensuring their needs are met.’

Robert Evans of Evans Vettori said: ‘When designing school projects we look for ways of collecting the space allocated for circulation, into a central social space.

‘This is then used for ‘breakout’ learning, community events, exhibitions and, most importantly, as a meeting place. These spaces help give a school its identity and ‘heart’. The loss of such gathering spaces will surely have a detrimental effect on the social life of schools.’


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