Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How Cost-Cutting Is Laying Foundations for Troubled Future

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How Cost-Cutting Is Laying Foundations for Troubled Future

Article excerpt

Half of architects say school projects aren't fit for purpose

Major concerns have been raised about the quality of new schools being built, with nearly half the architects questioned on the subject stating that their last project was not fit for purpose.

A survey of architects and designers working on the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) reveals that nine out of 10 respondents were worried about standards under the initiative. More than two-thirds said they were regularly asked to break building regulations relating to the amount of outdoor space available to pupils.

The PSBP was introduced in 2011 by the coalition government as a replacement for the previous Labour government's £55 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, which was scrapped in a bid to save costs.

But a poll of 230 architects taking part in the new scheme paints a worrying picture of the quality of schools being completed, with nearly half claiming the initiative is not conducive to producing suitable buildings.

Nearly one in five respondents did not believe that the buildings they had designed would last 20 years. One firm of architects predicted that the poor-quality buildings would mean schools faced even greater costs further down the line.

Speaking to the Architects' Journal, which carried out the survey, Claire Wright, a partner at Wright and Wright Architects, said: "The current schools programme [creates] substandard designs and buildings. The rebuilding and poor morale engendered will cost a fortune."

Her comments echo those made by Andrew Seager, headteacher of Stratford School Academy in London. He told the Commons Education Select Committee last month that he anticipated being forced to spend more money to patch up his new building in the near future (see box, right).

Brick by brick

The PSBP suffered a shaky start when it was brought in to replace BSF by then-education secretary Michael Gove. As one of his first acts in power in 2010, Mr Gove made the controversial decision to scrap BSF halfway through the programme, leaving hundreds of schools unsure about whether they would have their buildings rebuilt and refurbished.

Mr Gove also came under fire in 2012 over the design guidelines produced for the programme, which banned curved, glazed and folding walls in school designs in a further effort to cut costs. …

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