UK education expert welcomes the James Review on school building / by rachel

The system for school building in England is not fit for purpose and new schools should be built to a standard blueprint, according to a government-commissioned review led by Sebastian James. Aidan Ridyard, Director of international architecture, urbanism and design practice Broadway Malyan, responded: “The report includes a lot of common sense. Times have changed and in a new age of austerity we need to find ways to lead as a profession, rather than merely reiterate a poorly argued lament for a lost golden age.

“Make no bones about it, the Building Schools for the Future programme produced a lot of very poor design. However, some find it easy to hide behind high profile successes from pathfinder schools and the academies programme.

“At the peak of the process, we all knew of designers who couldn't even tell you where the school they were working on was, let alone what that location had brought to the design process. We must get realistic about the scale of the task ahead of us as a profession and work smarter, rather than try to protect our perceived positions.

“The report’s key design message is that we need mechanisms to find effective ways of learning from mistakes or successes and this makes perfect sense. How often did we see poor design strategies replicated across a whole Local Education Partnership because it was expedient or cheaper to do so?

“A standardisation of design should, at the very least, give us a base line for quality from which to build upwards. The key here is to ensure that there is a model for constant improvement, which the report is ostensibly championing, rather than an application of a single solution, which many may fear.

“If we don't find a way to make a re-invented solution work, others will, and we know better than most how to use a regulatory system to inspire great designs.

"So, let’s take this challenge head on. As experts in designing schools, who is better placed to deliver the increases in value that the report calls for?”

(Above) Construction of the brand new £66 million Bournville College campus at Longbridge Birmingham, designed by Broadway Malyan, reached an important milestone in February with topping out – marking the completion of the six-storey structural frame.

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