The shortage of funding for school places should not come as surprise − the issue has been around for years. It is a recurring theme caused by increasing numbers of children in our education system (through higher birth rates and immigration) with decreasing funding for school buildings. Couple that with an ageing education estate which needs investment just to keep the status quo, something is bound to crack (excuse the pun).
In August 2014 the Local Government Association stated that Councils were facing a £1 billion shortfall for new school places. Academies applying to central government for capital funding have been advised that only projects addressing building condition or oversized classes would be considered; funding for expansion projects is not available.
Given that the baby boom generation of the 00’s that caused so many issues in our primary schools will be hitting secondaries in the next five years, is it time to think outside the four walled, classroom shaped box?
A school in Northumberland certainly thought so. Central First School in Ashington has purchased a double decker bus on ebay and turned it into a two floor classroom. The intention was to create a unique space for additional literacy and numeracy classes for its pupil premium (those from more deprived backgrounds) and from all accounts, the students love it.
Other schools have pushed their space to the maximum, building teaching areas in cloakrooms, toilets and in one case on the roof! Whilst squeezing students into every available inch is not ideal, getting creative with space is something schools are going to have to get to grips with in the coming years.
Being innovative could provide cost effective space solutions for schools. Ideas such as the classroom bus could solve capacity issues without resorting to the dreaded temporary portacabin, as well as capturing the imagination of students and potentially helping the environment. They may not provide a long term solution in the same way as a new wing could but with the sort of money required for a large expansion in very short supply, short term ideas may be the only option for schools.
For further information please contact Amy Dimond, Solicitor in the Education team at Michelmores, by telephone on 01392 687525 or by email at email@example.com.