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RIBA goes back to schools to open up the profession

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The RIBA is preparing to mount another assault on the problem of an under-representation in the profession of non-whites and women by staging its second annual event aimed at enticing schoolchildren to become architects.

The Building Opportunity scheme was launched last year to promote architecture as a career to students from 'marginalized and low social and economic backgrounds' and get them to understand better the way architects work and shape the built environment.

The first stage this year involves 50 students from London schools in Tottenham, Peckham, Bethnal Green, Finsbury Park and Camberwell - three of them all-girls schools - taking part in workshops at the RIBA on 27 March. That will be followed by two-day workshops at the schools to get students to 'think like an architect' and come up with improvement proposals for their schools.

In the third phase, two students from each school will have two weeks of work experience at practices and report back - their work there will go on show at the institute in November.

'We were thrilled with last year's pilot scheme, ' said project officer Chris Nasah. 'Out of the seven students who took up placements, five definitely want to go on to become architects.'

Last week arts minister Chris Smith attacked the profession for its low level of ethnic minorities and women. The institute says that, although only 11 per cent of architects are women, new female RIBA members increased by 73 per cent this year.

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