A lack of collaboration in school building projects is the problem we need to address to solve the more for less equation

Caroline Buckingham

If you’ve been to as many school conferences and events as I have, you will have heard numerous discussions about standardisation, reduction in space, more for less, and so on. I can’t help thinking that we’re coming at things the wrong way.

If we put politics aside for a moment, and think back to the old days of procurement routes that put engagement with schools and the educational vision at the heart of a project, I expect we’d all agree that some good quality schools were created which significantly improved educational outcomes – which is the whole point right?!

These schools share one thing in common. They have, dare I say it, well-designed buildings and learning spaces. Architecture and design has helped them to flourish because it has created the right variety of spaces and the flexibility to adapt. 

Let’s embrace our new world and encourage a change in perception so educational design becomes exciting and fun again

So if good design is beneficial, shouldn’t we be rising above our parapets and trying to get our lonely voices heard?

We need to remember the good bits of what we learnt before, bring all the parties back together, collaborate and learn from each other. Yes, there’s less money and BSF’s a dirty word, but let’s embrace our new world and encourage a change in perception so educational design becomes exciting and fun again, and critically adds more value to our teachers and their students – our future generation.

Educational design applies across a wide range of sectors – the learning spaces in a state secondary have the same drivers as learning spaces in a prison; it’s the ethos, culture and locality that makes and should make the difference.

So how do we achieve all this? We stop complaining, drop the cynicism, be prepared to challenge current misconceptions and use our industry relationships to push the message out there in a positive way. And we take every opportunity to try out best practice, we don’t shy away from being inventive, we use the latest technology, get the next generation involved and offer something that maybe was never thought possible. 

And we work together in partnership, employing a democratic process where everyone’s views are heard and welcome. The projects where we all work together and get along are the best ones in my view.

No more potato stamping. Let’s be inventive and collaborate again and rise to the challenge … I’m up for it if you are.

Caroline Buckingham is board director and head of education for HLM Architects