Ministers set to propose the development of smaller school buildings


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The Independent Online

Ministers are set to unveil new templates for new school buildings, which could be up to 15% smaller than those built under the last government, it was reported today.

Under the plans, the size of corridors, halls and canteens will be reduced, as part of a bid to help keep down the costs of creating new school buildings, according to the Guardian newspaper.

It said that the "baseline designs", which will form the blueprints for 261 replacement school buildings due to be created over the next five years at a cost of £2.5billion, have been drawn up by the Education Funding Agency (EFA), and will be published this week.

Builders and architects who win contracts to create the new buildings will use the templates as a starting point.

On average, each new school is expected to cost £7 million less than under the Labour Government's £55 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme.

Government officials have told prospective builders to trim 15% from school space, before tenders for contracts are issued next month. Minimum classroom size is set to remain at around 54 square metres, so the cuts are likely to come from other areas of buildings, such as corridors and halls, the Guardian reported.

EFA chief executive Peter Lauener told the newspaper: "More for less is the theme of what we are trying to do with education capital.

"We are looking to come out with an average school building cost of under £14m compared to £21m under the BSF programme. It is not quite buy one, get one free. It is a three for two proposition."

He added that in the past, architects had been guilty of including too many "fripperies" in school buildings.

Ministers have previously mooted plans to create templates for new schools, which they have said will create better quality and cost-efficient buildings.

In April 2011, an independent review by Sebastian James concluded that the BSF programme failed to provide consistent quality, or low cost, and that schools were created to "bespoke" designs.

It called for future new buildings to be based on "a clear set of standardised drawings" which would effectively mean that new schools could be identical to each other.

Ministers announced in May that 261 of the most dilapidated schools in the country are to be given funding to repair their buildings under the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP).

Work on the successful schools was to begin immediately, with the first repaired and refurbished schools opening in 2014.

In total, 587 schools in England had applied to the Government for money earmarked to fix those in the worst condition.

The decision process had faced lengthy delays. Applications for the new scheme had been due in by last October, with an announcement on which schools would be funded originally expected last December.

The priority building programme was set up after Education Secretary Michael Gove controversially scrapped the BSF programme in 2010, arguing that the scheme had been beset by "massive overspends, tragic delays, botched construction projects and needless bureaucracy".

Under the move, hundreds of schools which were expecting to have their buildings refurbished or rebuilt, saw their plans scrapped.

Six local councils fought a High Court battle against the Government's decision to axe their BSF rebuilding projects, and Mr Justice Holman ruled Mr Gove had unlawfully failed to consult the councils before imposing the cuts.

He ruled that Mr Gove must now reconsider his decision, but added any final judgment over the future of the projects remained with the Government.

Mr Gove later announced that the projects would not be restored, saying he appreciated that the authorities would be "disappointed" by the decision, but added he wanted to ensure "absolute fairness" across the country when handing out funding for school buildings.

Under BSF, every secondary school in England was due to be rebuilt or refurbished.