How Will The Schools Estate Crisis Be Tackled For The New Term?

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The summer academic term is already drawing to a close, bringing a chance for teachers and other education workers to draw breath and reflect on the past year. For many, their overriding experience will have been juggling their primary role as an educator with the challenge of finding adequate and safe space to teach pupils.

Just days before the start of the current school year, educators were thrown into disarray as the UK government ordered over 100 schools and nurseries to close or relocate to temporary accommodation such as portable modular buildings. A handful of schools even resorted to teaching their pupils remotely from home.

The crisis was triggered by the discovery of unsafe reinforced autoclaved concrete (RAAC) installations that could be prone to collapse at any minute. This was a shocking and unwelcome turn of events, particularly as the education sector was still battling to overcome the disruption and chaos to student learning and progress caused by the pandemic.

As the investigations widened, a total of 230 schools were found to have at least one unsafe building or classroom, disrupting the education of some 700,000 pupils. It seems as though a tragic incident has only been avoided as a matter of luck and chance.

According to a report by the National Audit Office, 38 per cent of England’s 64,000 school buildings are now past their intended lifespan, amounting to two in five schools. The promised funding to repair or rebuild schools has been scant and slow to materialise, with some RAAC affected schools being turned down for urgent funds.

All this leaves some very pressing questions that need to be answered. The Labour Party, who are widely expected to take office after the general election, have pledged to 100,000 additional childcare places and more than 3,000 new nurseries as part of their childcare plan, according to BBC News.

The plans will include developing ‘wraparound childcare’ and would see space in existing primary schools being converted into nurseries. Breakfast clubs would also be set up in every primary school in England, and new nurseries would be set up in areas deemed to be in the most need.

Sarah Ronan, director of the Early Education and Childcare Coalition, said:

“Labour’s commitment to increasing the number of places is the right one, however if you boost places you have to also boost staff numbers, so underpinning its plan for reform must be a new workforce strategy that will attract more people into the sector and see early years professionals receive the pay, conditions and respect they deserve.”

These ambitious new plans are to be welcomed, but given the current concerning condition of many of our school buildings, it does raise the question of how the extra space will be found at short notice.

One solution that has gained popularity in recent years is the use of premium portable buildings. These cabins are often installed on a temporary basis to resolve a classroom issue while a traditional construction project is completed.

However, the quality and design of today’s modular buildings means that they are highly durable and adaptable, and they can be used on a permanent basis to increase a school estate and enhance its facilities.

Given the pressures on the current system, one of the main advantages of modular or portable buildings is the speed of installation. They can be installed on any firm and level area of ground within a matter of weeks or even days. This avoids the lengthy traditional construction process, which is often subjected to delays due to material or labour shortages.

Portable buildings are usually a far more cost effective choice than permanent structures, which will be a major consideration for most schools, given stretched budgets and limited resources. They are not just more affordable to hire or purchase, but generally also much cheaper to maintain.

Furthermore, such buildings are highly customisable and can be adapted to a wide variety of purposes. Anyone who has been through the British education system over the past 70 years may have preconceived notions of classroom cabins as drab and draughty spaces.

However, this is nothing like the reality of modern portable buildings, which are highly energy efficient, easy to heat, and can be customised with a range of fittings and finishes. This creates an instant teaching environment that is comfortable, inspiring and fit for purpose.

Categories: Cabins for hire, Portable classroom,
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