Officials review minimum space standards for primary and secondary schools to reduce cost

The size of new schools could be reduced by 15% under plans being drawn up by government advisers, in the latest move to cut costs from the education building programme.

Building understands that officials working alongside the Sebastian James review team, charged with reviewing school building work after the scrapping of the £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme, are looking at the feasibility of cutting the minimum space standards for primary and secondary schools.

Sources close to the process say that in primary schools, where there is increasing pressure on pupil places, advisers are likely to suggest cuts focused on
non-teaching areas.

The industry is being encouraged to help find creative ways of saving saving space

Source close to the process

But for secondary schools, it could mean a reduction in the size or number of classrooms.

Schools and project teams will also be encouraged to look at more creative ways of using space, such as staggering school days.

One industry source said: “The feedback we’re getting is that primary pupils spend a lot of time in a class base so that shouldn’t reduce.

“However the gross area could be reduced by downsizing non-teaching areas.

“But with secondary schools, the department is looking for more creative ways to save space, and the industry is being encouraged to help solve the problem.”

Officials are working towards a 15% reduction, although the exact figure has not been finalised.

Any change would be made in the Building Bulletins, which govern technical standards of school buildings, and announced either with the James review or shortly afterwards.

A typical secondary school would be reduced from 10,000m2 to 8,500m2. Based on a cost of roughly £1,600 per m2, this would mean a saving of about £2.4m per school.

Caroline Buckingham, head of education at HLM architects, said that the reduction could be achieved, but that schools and teachers might need to adapt their ways of working.

She said: “It’s about everyone working together to use the space they have. For example, some older pupils could start later and go home later.

“At the moment a lot of teachers assume a day is between 9am and 3pm, but if you’re delivering learning over a longer day you need less space”.

>> Find out the latest government thinking on the James Review at BSEC, 23 - 24 February 2011, ExCeL London.