Looking for Answers: The Future of London Schools

Looking for Answers: The Future of London Schools

John Spence, Partner and Head of Design at calfordseaden recently attended the New London Architecture’s (NLA) seminar ‘London School’s: How do we build enough places?’.

John outlines his thoughts from the conference:

As an Academy School Governor and designer of school buildings, I have seen the need for more pupil places first hand.

The issue of an increased role be it through population growth or simply by a desire for places at good schools. All good schools are massively oversubscribed and there is seldom enough money for quality teachers or buildings. Often small sums of money are made available from central Government and these monies are hugely oversubscribed and are needed to be spent in a very short timeframe.

This is common in all institutions; a small amount of money is issued to solve an immediate problem, often with temporary buildings being used as the solution: cheap and quick.

Why not have businesses sponsoring schools, where the Government pays per pupil?

So often the money is given for essential repairs or for classroom spaces without an upgrade in the other facilities of sport, play, library, dining and assembly, with the consequential knock-on effect of overcrowding. Sponsored schools or academies such as the Harris Federation run like a business and in doing so have achieved great results and efficiencies through centralisation of backroom support.

The duplication of facilities in local communities and local schools is something that joined up time tabling could perhaps offer some solutions. Everyone wants to do the best for our children and so there must be a better way. My Partner at calfordseaden, Chris Rainsford, who has also been a School Governor, and I attended the recent NLA Seminar ‘London School’s: How do we build enough places?’ looking for answers.

The headlines from this conference were:

  • There is too little funding for the 36,000 places currently required in London
  • Expanding existing schools has been the usual way to increase places and often only classroom space, without an increase in associated spaces such as sports halls and particularly dining halls where lunch time is often having to be staggered to accommodate the increased numbers
  • There is talk of the school day being organised in shifts to accommodate more pupils
  • Free schools are increasing but often they are in places where there is low demand or lots of other popular schools. Dulwich was cited as an example where there are 4 free schools
  • Increasing pupil numbers naturally requires more teachers and we’re on the cusp of a looming shortage
  • Massive new ‘Titan’ schools’ are being proposed.
  • New schools are being procured through frameworks, with projects batched to make it more economical
  • New trends are for mixed use developments, with high rise schools and housing built over schools e.g. the ‘Beekman Tower’ in New York has 76 floors with the lower floors a private school and a hospital along with the foyer to residential and other uses in the tower.

For more information, please contact our Head of Design, John Spence