Dangerous and poorly built schools are failing children and teachers, warns RIBA

Burntwood School, which won RIBA’s Stirling prize for the UK’s best building
Burntwood School in London, which won RIBA’s Stirling prize for the UK’s best building, “should not be the execption”

A new report into the state of school buildings throughout the UK has found that too many are dangerous and dilapidated, causing children to underperform and teachers to quit.

Using the largest ever analysis of primary and secondary school buildings in the UK, a nation-wide poll of teachers, and extensive engagement with school buildings experts, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) found that 1 in 5 teachers have considered quitting because of the wretched condition of the school buildings they have to work in.

Published today, RIBA’s Better Spaces for Learning report lamented a new generation of overly standardised new buildings which cost £150m a year more to run than they should.

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

It identifies 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.

The new report is further insight into the UK government’s own assertion that just 5 per cent 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.

Better Spaces for Learning 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.

RIBA President Jane Duncan said: “This country is in the grip of the worst shortage of school places in living memory. 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. Award winning well-designed, successful schools with happy pupils and productive staff like Burntwood School in London shouldn’t be the exception, they should be the standard.

“How can we expect our children to compete with the world’s best when too many of our school buildings are substandard? Educational improvements resulting from the current programme of school building are not reaching the basic standards that British taxpayers and our economy expects. We need to do better for all of our children and their hardworking teachers. We urge the Government to review its programme of building new schools.”

The claims about the latest school building programme follow the closure last month of 17 schools in Edinburgh, built under the private finance initiative, owing to safety fears after a wall collapsed at a primary school.

Tags: RIBA

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