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RIBA hits out at government’s ‘inflexible’ school templates

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The RIBA has blasted the government’s plans for a fresh wave of standardised schools, claiming they will ‘deprive’ students and teachers of quality learning environments

The government yesterday revealed its baseline designs for 261 planned new schools which will be up to 15 per cent smaller and £6 million cheaper each than previous designs.

In a statement, Portland Place raised serious concern over the approach – which aims to shave 30 per cent off the cost of new school buildings – with institute president Angela Brady claiming it was ‘far too restrictive with too much focus on short term savings.’

Brady said: ‘Improvements must be made to the proposals to make sure that the schools we build now will suit the future generations of children that will learn in them, and deliver what the community needs in the longer term.’

The RIBA raised five key concerns over the designs and announced a series of recommendations to improve the templates. (See concerns below)

Advice included completing independent reviews of schools’ design and providing baseline designs which include provision for students and staff with physical impairments and other disabilities.

The institute also called for rigorous testing of the environmental strategy and asked that baseline designs undergo testing against a variety of ‘real life’ site situations prior to release.

RIBA also demanded the Education Funding Agency clarify which elements of the templates are mandatory and asked that output specification’s retain enough detail to ‘prevent the erosion of design quality in the tender process’.

It also asked that clients and schools receive advice from qualified and experienced design professionals on the quality and functionality of any proposals based on the baseline design.


Baseline school designs: The five RIBA concerns

  • A ‘one size fits all’ approach will place a straitjacket on future generations of teaching professionals and quickly render these schools redundant in the light of developments in pedagogy and technology.
  • The minimal circulation spaces have the potential for serious congestion, with the consequential impact on behaviour and wellbeing.
  • The low energy environmental strategy is welcomed but the success of the layout is predicated on optimal conditions that may be difficult to achieve in reality.
  • The RIBA has serious reservations about the ability of the baseline designs to accommodate students and staff with disabilities and in general to meet statutory access requirements.
  • A lack of engagement between sufficiently experienced design teams, educationalists and end users risks these minimum requirements being delivered without consideration of the particular needs of each school community.


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