Plans to slash the building costs of a new generation of schools will end previous extravagant designs, but critics question whether these so-called ‘austerity’ schools will be fit for purpose.
Government plans will see 261 schools rebuilt over the next five years at a cost of £2.5 billion. The designs are for modular buildings that can be built off-site, but secondaries will be 15% smaller, primaries 5%, The BBC reports.
Minimum standards for classrooms will stay the same but plans to replace run-down schools include spending on average one third less per building, so space will be squeezed in corridors, assembly halls and atriums. The average price of each school is expected to be £6 million less than under the Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future programme, cancelled in 2010 after criticism of soaring costs and delays.
Heads can opt out of the designs, but if they spend more than £1,113 per square metre they will have to find the additional costs themselves.
Peter Lauener, chief executive of the Education Funding Agency, which has drawn up the plans, said: “If you have shares in atriums, sell,” and that architects were guilty of including too many ‘fripperies’ in the last generation of schools.
Teachers have warned that narrower corridors could cause congestion. “The spaces outside the classroom are vital to the culture and climate of a school and to have well-ordered corridors is key,” said Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT. “In a secondary school, there are potentially 1,000 pupils changing lessons at exactly the same time and, if corridors are narrow, it will lead to them bumping into one another and that could lead to discipline problems.”
Nusrat Faizullah from the British Council for School Environments said: “A shrinkage in space means less flexibility for those that use them, inhibiting innovation. Will these austerity schools prove to be value-for-money schools? Time will tell.”
Will austerity schools damage school life or are they a sensible way of cutting spending? Would you like to teach in one?
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