Spending cuts could cause serious back pain
Ed Ball's announcement that £2bn needs to be saved from budgets could mean school refurbishments and new builds are put on hold, warn school equipment manufacturers.
Experts in the design, manufacture and installation of furniture for schools are concerned that desks, chairs and other essential pieces of equipment will be first in the firing line as architects and contractors seek to shave costs from their projects.
That prospect could undo many advances in the ergonomics and aesthetics of classrooms made over the last decade, and the consequences for students could extend beyond missing out on a modern and attractive space in which to learn.
Campaigners, notably the Furniture Industry Research Association, have been advocating greater co-operation between manufacturers and educationalists to ensure school furniture supports children physical as well as intellectual growth.
Figures show that by the age of 14, around 15% of schoolchildren will have experienced serious back pain.
Selecting the desks, chairs, stools and tables which are used day in day out by schoolchildren can often be left too late in the project when the opportunity to maximise use of design services and experience from manufacturers.
Richard Fitzmaurice, from Carleton Furniture Group, said: “If costs for projects are over-running or designers are having a re-think about new projects in the light of spending restrictions, furniture can be an option to cut back on due to it being procured towards the end of the build programme.
“Design and build quality, in both ergonomic and visual senses, could well end up being compromised.”
He advises involving designers and manufacturers early in projects so that costs can be managed and expertise can be deployed to keep to budgets without compromising on aesthetics or functional appeal.
“There’s no need to cut back on the quality of design and build with school furniture because budgets are being tightened,” said Mr Fitzmaurice. “Architects and interior designers can source bespoke solutions when building new schools or refurbishing old ones.”
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