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Exclusive: Seated breaktimes – concerns grow over cramped school buildings

Union to survey members over concerns about school building programme

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Union to survey members over concerns about school building programme

A union is planning to survey its members over growing concerns about schools operating in buildings that are too small for them – including one school that has been forced to introduce a regime of "seated breaktimes".

The NASUWT teaching union will question members who work in schools that have been included in the government's flagship Priority Schools Building Programme (PSBP).

Wayne Bates, a national negotiating officer, says the union has heard “a lot of stories about very poor-quality rebuilding, and teachers not being happy with things like corridor width and the size of classrooms”. He adds: “It’s two issues: we have got, perhaps, rebuilds that are not big enough, but we also have these schools that are bursting at the seams.”

There have also been concerns about sites that have been found for some free schools.

When councillors were considering the planning application for Bolingbroke Academy, which opened in 2012 in the grade II-listed home of the former Bolingbroke Hospital in Wandsworth, southwest London, the chief concern was that “the site was not large enough for the proposed school to accommodate up to 800 pupils”. The secondary now has a regime of seated breaktimes for Year 7 pupils. 

Parents have been told that the school must have such arrangements because of space constraints.

The school, which is sponsored by Ark, declined to comment, but its website acknowledges that it has “limited internal play space” and that it uses staggered breaktimes to “enable pupils to make good use of it”.

A DfE spokesperson said a National Audit Office report published in February had suggested that school leaders are “overwhelmingly satisfied” with their PSBP schools.

“Of the 53 school leaders that have fed back, 85 per cent have been satisfied, or better, with their buildings. We will shortly be seeking similar feedback on free schools,” he said.

“Schools are designed to support educational attainment with robust buildings that are simple to operate and with low ongoing running costs. For free schools, we will open in high-quality temporary sites where appropriate, and we make sure that they are safe and suitable for educational purposes.”

This is an edited article from the 21 April edition of Tes. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's Tes magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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