Too many school buildings are failing our children


A new report on the state of school buildings in the UK by the Royal Institute of British Architects makes the case for an urgent review of the Government’s Education Funding Agency’s current school building programme.

RIBA has identified that good school design can reduce running and maintenance costs, in some cases by more than several times a teacher’s average salary a year; it could have prevented the English school estate from spending upwards of £150m annually on unnecessary operation and maintenance costs.

According to RIBA's analysis of government figures published last year, just 5% of the nearly 60,000 school buildings across the UK are performing as intended and operating efficiently. The prevalence of damp, leaky classrooms and asbestos-ridden buildings in British schools means too many pupils and teachers are struggling to learn and teach in conditions damaging to their health and education.

The report reveals that the Government’s current programme of building new schools is inefficient – with a lack of flexibility to make the best possible use of resources, and little opportunity for school staff to input into the design of their own new buildings.

RIBA believes that the Government programme must be improved to guarantee better outcomes for our public money.

The report emphasises the importance of well-designed school buildings on young people’s wellbeing, behaviour engagement and crucially, attainment.

RIBA President Jane Duncan said: "Our report highlights the vital importance of school design and how it affects the general health and wellbeing of their users, our children and their teachers. As limited funding is available to deal with the growing problem, every penny spent on schools must deliver maximum value for money."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said the Priority School Building Programme was "transforming run-down buildings to state-of-the-art facilities, targeting funding at those school buildings in the worst condition."

She said the scheme was cheaper and quicker to operate than the previous programme, with designs developed in consultation with experts "giving young people across the country the modern learning environment they need to unlock their potential".

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