Education Thought Piece | HPA | Blog


Director Zoe examines the recent report by the National Audit Office ‘Condition of School Buildings’ published last month, regarding the condition of schools:

“Despite recent ‘levelling up’ funds, the report gives a damming response to the Government’s proposal to provide suitable healthy surroundings for young people. It concludes that in recent years, the funding for school buildings has not matched the amount the Department of Education estimates it needs. Responsible bodies are less likely to prioritise works to elements of school buildings in the worst condition. This may then delay carrying out remedial work, leading to poor value for money in the longer-term.”

“It is also clear that the Department of Education does not have a comprehensive understanding of the education estate and consequently the shortfall in funds and programmed works could be much worse than the independent audit reveals. Information gathered by the Government doesn’t include anything beyond visual inspection. Therefore, structural, and less obvious issues which could be a ‘stitch in time’, could help could save thousands if identified, prioritised and monitored correctly.

I believe that the current audit system doesn’t go far enough to understand the extortionate energy bills and maintenance cost pressures that education establishments are under. Whilst last year’s investigations into the Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) are welcomed, this is the tip of the iceberg in understanding the overall health of our public schools.”

“Within HPA’s experience, classrooms are often too hot or too cold, and where technological upgrades are made, they’re often clashing with an understanding of how the building works, following previous initiations of installing tech rather than taking a fabric first approach.

Whilst I welcome the Audit Office recommendations and data driven approach for the assessment, smart planning needs to be applied to create useable and valuable information for schools.  Transforming and improving school facilities need not require huge budgets or star-studded trophy architects as we saw in the 1990’s and 2000’s. We need collaboration between the right stakeholders, allowances of time, well informed condition surveys and realistic funding budgets. The large demolition of schools shouldn’t be the only answer and isn’t in line with our current sustainably driven thinking.

I hope that in drawing attention to the lack of joined up thinking and a welcoming frank response from the National Audit Office, a more practical solution will be created. The bottom line is, we need to see further funding to provide young people with the buildings and spaces that can give them the best start in life.”

Zoe is an Architect & Director of HPA with extensive experience working in the Education Sector. She is the main lead on the current Barrow Sixth Form refurbishment.

For further details on HPA’s education sector, please see here.

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