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British architects say United Kingdom plagued by poorly designed schools

May 11, 2016
Report from the Royal Institute of British Architects calls for more flexibility in school design and construction.

A study by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has found that too many school buildings in the United Kingdom are dangerous and dilapidated, and that the poor conditions are causing children to underperform and teachers to quit.

The Guardian reports that the RIBA study, "Better Spaces for Learning," found that one in 20 teachers who had left their jobs cited poor building conditions as a reason.

"Schools delivered by central government are not delivering the value for money they could if they embraced the principles of good design," RIBA says. "This is preventing the available money in the pot from stretching as far as possible. The government needs to put good design at the top of the agenda."

In calling for more flexibility in school design, RIBA says the recommendation is about more than aesthetics. Good design can improve student and teacher performance, and save money.

"Good design is not just about appearance," the study says. "It makes a noticeable difference to outcomes and frees up resources. Our research showed that an overwhelming majority of teachers believe good school buildings can reduce bullying and pupil misbehaviour. It also has a positive impact on school staff’s productivity."

A 60 percent reduction in the government’s schools capital budget is producing new buildings with too much standardization. Those facilities cost about 150 million pounds (£150m) a year more to operate than they should,RIBA contends. The study found that one in 20 teachers who had left their job cited poor building conditions and one in five had considered it. 

RIBA wants the United Kingdom to adopt a more flexible approach to the rules governing school design.

"The RIBA believes the Government should review how the current generation of centrally planned school building projects is working," the study's executive summary says. "The new approach adopted by the government...has succeeded in delivering schools to incredibly tight budgets, but it has also proved to be hugely restrictive in terms of the design and timeframes allowed for the construction of new schools.

"This one-size-fits-all approach means that opportunities to innovate or respond to local context to optimise investment are being curtailed. With the right reforms, the results could be much better."

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