New-build schools singled out for criticisms

More than 80% of teachers believe the learning environment has a notable impact on pupils’ attainment, behaviour and engagement, according to new research.

But fewer than 4% feel schools are in an excellent condition. They raised widespread concerns about a lack of space, poor layouts and declining durability, particularly in newer builds.

The findings confirm what architects have been trying to tell the government for years, with little effect. Michael Gove scrapped the £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme the moment he took up his post in 2010. He later said they would not be getting any expensive “award-winning architects” like Richard Rogers to design free schools.

His criticism was supported by free school pioneer Toby Young who said the time: “We will be looking for an architect who doesn’t have too inflated an idea of how important buildings are to educational outcomes because I think the connection between the two is practically zero.” He later hired TP Bennett.

The focus has since been switched to standardised or “flat pack” designs costing £1,465 per sq m.

The survey of primary and secondary teachers, conducted for the Smarter Spaces campaign across a small sample, found that staff would like greater involvement - for themselves and their pupils - in the design of their schools. Key concerns were more space, natural light, writable surfaces and regulated temperatures.

Meanwhile, the government has announced it will provide at least £200 million of capital funding for new and expanded schools, with details to be revealed later in the year.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan also said the latest phases of the £4.4 billion Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) would see 500 schools rebuilt or refurbished by 2021.

In her report, Educational Excellence Everywhere, she said the average cost of delivering schools through the PSBP was a third less than under BSF - and that it took one year for construction to start, as opposed to three years under BSF.