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#GREATSCHOOLS roundtable: ‘We need to shout louder’

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Greater lobbying will be needed after the general election to boost design quality in new and refurbished schools, according to a specialist panel

Leading architects and clients joined forces yesterday (29 April) to debate the #GREATSCHOOLS campaign, launched earlier this year by the AJ in partnership with Hawkins\Brown.  

Top of the panel’s recommendations was increasing pressure on the next government to improve the funding for Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) and strengthen the evidence base for good design by completing post-occupancy evaluations of all new schools.

A greater role for architects in promoting the qualitative aspects of good school design was also demanded.

We are too passive as a sector

Educationalist Sharon Wright said: ‘We are too passive as a sector and we need to shout much louder.

‘Whatever happens in this election there will be a new government formed with a new agenda and we need to be forthright about the importance of schools design.’

Southwark Council’s head of regeneration Bruce Glockling warned more capital funding was key to ensuring PSBP projects were able to achieve the programme’s long term objectives.

Wright added: ‘Everybody working on PSBP projects wants to deliver fantastic schools but the funding system is squeezed to deliver that.’

Hawkins\Brown partner Carol Lees argued increased funding would allow architects more time to help teachers draw up an appropriate brief for their school’s needs.

It all comes down to who controls the purse strings

Studio partner Roger Hawkins (pictured) added: ‘It all comes down to who controls the purse strings. Architects need to be trusted by government to work with teachers at an early stage so we can have enlightened clients who can prepare proper briefs.’

To create a more robust evidence base for good design, Hawkins argued PSPB should copy the higher education sector where completing a post occupancy evaluation is a requirement for funding.

He said: ‘We need to ask whether a project met the requirements of its brief and then disseminate that information.’

The experts went on to discuss how PSBP’s contractor-led procurement process has denied architects a chance to explore improvements to existing buildings.

They also debated how new schools have become too classroom focussed with less flexible space than their BSF predecessors and why the standardised ‘big box’ approach ignores local contexts and struggles to win planning.

Architects need to demonstrate the importance of good design

Summing up, RIBA sustainable development policy expert Emilia Plotka said: ‘Architects need to demonstrate the importance of good design. We need to move away from the perception of architects as extravagant designers and demonstrate their ability as great decision makers.’

She continued: ‘It’s about raising awareness of the value of design and speaking in a language that will appeal to politicians.’

  • Read more detailed coverage of the #GREATSCHOOLS roundtable – including comment from Alex Warnock-Smith of Urban Projects Bureau and AECOM global education sector lead Mairi Johnson – in AJ 22.05.2015





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