BSRIA briefing educates industry on schools for the future

Catalyst for transformation — Tim Byles on Building Schools for the Future.
The Government’s nationwide drive to improve schools with over £9 billion investment proved a popular and controversial topic at this year’s BSRIA Briefing, held in London in November. Over 500 delegates heard speakers discuss the progress being made on the Building Schools for the Future programme — but not all were agreed on its success. Ty Goddard, director of the British Council for School Environments (BCSE) made a plea for a better procurement process: ‘We believe that the Building Schools for the Future procurement process wastes time, and duplicates effort. It takes too long, and complicates simple things. The process demands answers when knowledge is at its lowest and doesn’t allow for stakeholder involvement. And I can’t find any mention of sustainability!’ The procurement process is currently under review, but Goddard has his doubts about whether this will solve the problems: ‘This review must not make things worse. It must not pitch one sector against another,’ said Ty Goddard. Other problems with the schools improvement programme were highlighted by Robin Nicholson of CABE who commented, ‘School buildings deliver less than expected. There are design issues such as conflicts between daylighting and electric lighting, and problems in the ventilation systems.’ Tim Byles, chief executive of Building Schools for the Future emphasised that schools would remain top priority for the Government: ‘Building Schools for the Future is a catalyst for transformation.’ However, he also pointed out that transforming the UK’s school buildings is a complex job; currently only 14% of pupils are taught in schools built since the mid-1970s. Byles said that the procurement review for BSF reports in the Spring and that lessons from school design and construction would be shared in a national network. Overall however, the panel and delegates were all in agreement about how important the refurbishment and rebuild of schools are for the UK. As Ty Goddard said, ‘In working on the construction of new schools, you have got a real sense that you are truly contributing to something that is about building for the future.’

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