The drive to standardise school designs is a result of a government commissioned review into school building procurement last year by retail executive Sebastian James. It directly threatens the fee income of architects who can no longer rely on a new commission for every new school building or extension project.
Anthony Noun, head of external affairs at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) agreed that the previous Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future programme, was “wasteful, overly complex and too often resulted in poor-quality school building”. He said that RIBA “agrees in principle with the need for greater standardisation of components and processes within school building projects”.
However, the design guidelines set out by the Education Funding Agency will be bad for student discipline, RIBA warns.
“The minimal circulation spaces have the potential for serious congestion, with the consequential impact on behaviour and wellbeing,” it says. “The designs for secondary schools include narrow corridors and concealed stairs that are difficult to supervise; in many schools this is likely to result in the need for additional staff supervision to maintain good behaviour and avoid bullying.”
RIBA warns clients and schools not to rely on any standardised proposals from contractors. It says they should get “expert advice from qualified and experienced design professionals on the quality and functionality of any contractor's proposals using the baseline design”.
RIBA president Angela Brady said: “Our students, teachers and local communities deserve great schools - environments that are beneficial to the best-quality teaching and learning. In these times of austerity of course we need to cut our cloth on all spending; however, the government's proposals for the design and construction of future schools are far too restrictive with too much focus on short-term savings.
“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.”