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Every secondary can be an Eden

An eye-popping array of science-fiction style designs for schools was unveiled this week in a multi-billion pound scheme to modernise all English secondaries.

Recommended designs include a building that bears a striking resemblance to the Eden project, with a giant plastic dome and an indoor forest.

Another model for a city school features rounded chill-out zones and informal learning spaces which hang high above a central atrium, as well as pebble-shaped halls for its dining room and sports facilities.

The designs were revealed yesterday as the Government announced the first 11 local authorities to receive cash totalling more than pound;2 billion to revamp their secondary schools. More councils are to get extra support over the next 10 to 15 years to give their secondary pupils 21st-century facilities.

David Miliband, the schools standards minister, said the Building Schools for the Future scheme would not mean that every school in England would be replaced - only those that need to be modernised. In some cases Victorian schools would outlast more modern but less sturdy buildings.

"Many of the worst schools are those built in the 1960s and 1970s which are in worse condition than the Victorian buildings - and even some from the 1980s are weak," he said.

Leading architects have worked on the designs, which are expected to inspire all councils that are building schools, and not just those getting the new funding. But ministers stress they should not be seen as a straitjacket.

The flexibility of many designs makes it easier for schools to hold some lessons for classes of 60 to 90, a move that has concerned teachers' unions.

Mr Miliband said it was crucial that the new buildings should support the changes to the education workforce, including the increased responsibility for teaching assistants.

"This is the first time since the Victorian era that investment in education capital has been allied with education reforms," he said.

The first group of authorities will get between pound;100 million and pound;200m each and will begin construction of new buildings in 2005. They are: Gateshead and South Tyneside, Knowsley, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Newham, Solihull, Stoke on Trent, Sunderland and Waltham Forest, with Lancashire and Leicester as reserves in case any of the other projects fall through.


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