School buildings could be replaced by virtual education within 20 years, according to a report by CABE and the RIBA.

The 35-page study, entitled 21st-century Schools: Learning Environments of the Future, puts forward the idea that children might learn through an IT network rather than through face to face education.

The conventional school with their specialised classrooms and set curriculums could be rendered obsolete by rapidly developing IT and closer interaction with the wider community, the study suggests.

In its place the study foresees a shift towards flexible timetables and individual learning plans, catered for in multipurpose spaces spread across several locations in a neighbourhood.

Other possibilities put forward in the study include: a fortress school guarded by swipe-card entrances; a school dispersed across a community; and an extended school incorporating health centre, public library and even start-up enterprises.

“Currently, school buildings are not very different from what they were a hundred years ago, while the design of homes, the workplace, retail spaces, hospitals, transport and communications have changed dramatically,” the report says.

It argues that the government programme to rebuild or refurbish every secondary school in England over the next 15 years should stimulate such a dramatic change.

Writing in the report’s foreword, architect Richard Feilden said it was decided that this work should focus on the secondary sector as this was the area where the greatest change could be foreseen.