Teachers give thumbs down to new schools

28th May 2004 at 01:00
Teachers are glad they have new facilities but believe "a once in a generation opportunity" has been missed to provide outstanding school buildings.

A joint report by the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland on the first phase of public private partnership (PPP) buildings records no more than a satisfactory verdict.

Much to improve on in further rounds of PPP building is the collective view of union and architects. Both cite a serious lack of consultation with teachers and pupils in the initial design. The union commissioned the survey after concern at last year's annual meeting about working conditions in the new and refurbished buildings. Sixty schools responded.

On key issues that affect teaching and learning, members report that they had very little input. Only 3 per cent say they influenced the heating systems, 8 per cent the use of natural light, 7 per cent the use of artificial lighting, 5 per cent noise protection, 13 per cent size of classrooms and 17 per cent movement around the school.

Some teachers, especially in primary, are happy with the finished result when it is well designed and spacious. But "such comments are disappointingly rare", the EIS says.

It adds: "Some comment on the waste of energy of heating systems that are uncontrollable with temperatures either soaring or plummeting. It is commented that the size of teaching areas makes teaching and learning very difficult. Problems are identified also with lighting and ventilation."

Multiple use of spaces creates difficulties in most schools. Open spaces can be used for performance, concert and drama venues, classrooms, dining areas and physical education areas.

Other complaints include a room used for art and home economics which is cramped and noisy. But new PE areas are strongly endorsed.


* The electric lights have to be on all day regardless of the weather as the sloping ceiling keeps the classroom dark. The low ceilings and small opening of windows (safety feature) prevent the circulation of air and the classrooms become stuffy.

* Staff in general would prefer classroom doors and adequate cloakroom facilities for children. Underfloor heating is inadequate.

* Excellent building. Only criticism - network system, lack of soundproofing between classrooms.


* Classrooms go from tropical to arctic conditions.

* Severe ventilation problem in all south-facing rooms.

* Garage for school minibus wrong size (out of use). Staffroom in wrong location.

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