Baseline school designs: some may think we’re selling our children short but we need to look at a system that can deliver in tough times

Marcus Fagent

It’s clear that the Education Funding Agency doesn’t intend the baseline designs to be the last word in school design – instead they should perhaps be seen as the first word in standardisation. They may not be perfect, but can be tweaked over the course of the Priority Schools Building Programme. 

Some will see this approach as a retrograde step – selling our children short after all the previous work to “upgrade” our education design thinking. But we have to move forward into the austere new world with a clear understanding of what works – and deliver it for £1,465/m2. In many respects, the EFA should be applauded for showing leadership in a way that Partnerships for Schools never did. 

The £1,465/m2 target isn’t new and has been achieved for a while now. The challenge is how to raise quality over time when building costs may start to rise. 

There are many benefits to standardisation. Contractors can:

  • Maximise the procurement benefits of buying components and services in bulk
  • Use this opportunity to address innovation in design and delivery, using the baseline designs as the benchmark for the assessments of proposed design solutions
  • Test their own designs against the baseline, focusing on outcomes for learners.

To those who say the baseline designs aren’t good enough we should ask: “Which is more wrong – that 10,000 children should be educated in school buildings that aren’t as good as they could be, or that 1,000 children don’t have schools to go to?”

Marcus Fagent is education sector lead at EC Harris