‘Shrinking schools’ threaten inclusion of thousands of disabled pupils, says ALLFIE


Government plans to “shrink” new school buildings will threaten the inclusion of thousands of disabled children in mainstream settings, campaigners have warned.

The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE) spoke out after the Department for Education (DfE) released new “baseline” designs for the construction of primary and secondary schools.

The Education Funding Agency claims its designs will mean less “wasted space”, with costs cut by 30 per cent through its Priority Schools Building Programme.

But the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) said it was “seriously concerned” by the plans to standardise the design and construction of schools, and warned that the government’s “flat-pack” approach was “far too restrictive” and had “too much focus on short-term savings”.

Among five key concerns, RIBA said it had “serious reservations” about whether the designs could “accommodate” disabled students and staff and meet legal access requirements.

ALLFIE said the proposals to “shrink” new schools would “threaten the inclusion of thousands of disabled children and young people in mainstream education across the country”.

Simone Aspis, ALLFIE’s policy and campaigns officer, said: “We are deeply concerned that disabled people’s access to mainstream education is at severe risk as part of the government’s cost-cutting exercise.

“The government proposal to reduce the size of school buildings will result in more disabled children being forced into segregated school provision.”

The DfE says the new designs will provide “a light, bright and airy learning environment for students and teachers” and were drawn up following advice from “environmental, architectural and teaching experts”.

A DfE spokeswoman added: “They enable every new school to be built more efficiently and will improve quality, reduce costs and limit the opportunity for error.

“We worked with accessibility experts to ensure these new designs meet the needs of all disabled staff and children.”

The DfE believes that the designs – which do not apply to special schools – comply with building regulations and meet the provisions of the Equality Act, while it says schools could easily adapt the layouts to meet their own needs.

1 November 2012