Blyth Community College, Northumberland

procured capital programme that would deliver hundreds of schools.

The first decade of the new millennium was an excellent time for architects. Budgets were generally over £2,000 per m2

, and in

many cases the headteachers had free rein to design their ‘perfect school.’ These buildings were very headteacher-specific, making every one unique. Space Architects have worked on many projects across the UK, including Knowsley, Hull and Lincoln, and this year marks the practice’s 100th design for the education sector. Under BSF there were many different approaches to design, with large amounts of informal space. Since returning to these buildings, most schools did not understand how to use the open-plan spaces effectively, and have enclosed them.

The most infamous BSF school was the Evelyn Grace Academy in London, by Zaha Hadid. As an architect, this is a fantastic building. However, as a taxpayer at £4,500 per m2 over the top.

, it felt a little

In 2010 the BSF works came crashing down with the change in government, and the appointment of Michael Gove as Education Secretary. He stopped the BSF programme overnight and launched a review by Sebastian James to look at how we should design buildings in the future.

From our perspective as a business, it was a challenging time.

Space Architects worked on 15 schools with more in the pipeline, and overnight, they were cancelled.

When the Sebastian James review was published, it suggested the standardisation of schools and the simplification of design.

Circulation area was minimised, specifications changed and, critically, budgets reduced. In comparison to some of the BSF budgets, it was halved.

The Government then launched the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) which looked to deliver a standard design across England by providing a detailed specification and budget. The PSBP has been very effective, and has delivered a consistent quality product at an affordable cost. Because the specification is so well defined, the schools are similar, no matter who the contractor and design team is.

As the PSBP chapter comes to an end, the Department for Education (DfE) has started implementing a new framework. It takes on board the learning from the past and builds upon it. The specification aligns with the previous framework’s space standards; however, there is a focus on long-term value and not cost alone. There is an encouragement for further standardisation. Schools are to be net-zero carbon in operation, requiring investment in fabric, heating, cooling and energy generation. When reflecting on the past 30 years, it is encouraging to see things have progressed, much of it for the better. We can always spend money and design fantastic buildings; however, we have a responsibility to provide taxpayers value, as well as to give every learner the best opportunity in life. Space Architects’ ethos – for every building we design – is to help improve people’s lives and make a difference to where they live, work, learn and play. For schools that is no different.

Rob Charlton is the CEO of Space Architects, part of Space Group



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