BBC Panorama documentary
An alarming BBC Panorama documentary, “Britain’s Crumbling Schools” highlighted the deteriorating physical state of many British schools (aired January 2024). Not confined to the RAAC fiasco, a high number of education buildings across the country, including outdated temporary classrooms, are falling into extreme states of disrepair, way below the standard that is considered ‘fit for purpose’. A supplier of temporary classroom and sports hall buildings to the education sector, Smart-Space is also known for its permanent building solutions that have resolved many space and environment issues for more than three decades.
Smart Space can help
“There is an alternative to patching up badly constructed, defunct and leaky buildings” explained Smart-Space Sales Director Jason Lynock. “We can provide two clear routes for schools. Temporary buildings, or pop-up buildings, can be installed without foundations and are ready for use within a matter of weeks. We can also create robust, permanent solutions at a fraction of the cost of traditional bricks and mortar premises.”
Over the years Smart-Space has created safe, warm spaces for education purposes. Some schools have opted to relocate the school’s sporting or creative lessons to the large, airy, temporary buildings and repurpose existing space within the school for seated lessons. Adding space provides options and an increased flexibility. This can be a more permanent arrangement; or one that gives the school some time to plan, budget and build other structures.
The Panorama documentary stated that over 276 UK schools are known to contain RAAC which is an inadequate building material, called ‘bubbly concrete’, and are partially or wholly condemned as unsafe. The product has now exceeded its intended lifespan and poses serious safety risks.
The programme showed how some school children are being transported to other establishments to learn. Others are spending their days in unheated classrooms wearing coats and gloves whilst trying to concentrate. As well as schools that are affected by RAAC and those in urgent need of maintenance and repair work, there are those containing asbestos. The documentary cited that up to 4 out of 5 UK schools contain asbestos which becomes dangerous once it is disturbed. All of these issues are adding extreme financial and welfare stresses to already pressured learning environments.
“Britain’s Crumbling Schools” showed some modular and temporary buildings that were supplied many years ago, with as many as 10,000 of these old buildings still in use. The Smart-Space solutions are very different to these prefab ‘shabby sheds’ and are soundly constructed with full facilities including insulation; sinks, showers and toilets; kitchens; contemporary lighting and other amenities - often using sustainable methods. Above all, they can be used safely, effectively and immediately.
Temporary classroom success story thanks to Smart Space
A recent case study, and award-winning project, demonstrates the flexibility of Smart-Space temporary classroom facilities. Treetops in Essex used a permanent Maxi-Space solution to accommodate its entire school whilst a traditional brick build took place adjacent to the Smart-Space building. Once the school was ready to transfer its students, the Smart-Space building was transformed quickly and easily into dedicated sports facility. This meant the school, for children with special educational needs, was able to open a year earlier than expected and the students enjoyed a seamless education experience.
Additional space for schools can be approached in a number of ways. Buildings can be hired and temporary. Schools can opt to switch to purchase if the solution is working well on a longer term basis and buying begins to make better financial sense. Schools can also invest in permanent structures, with the Maxi-Space product allowing any size to be installed. The expertise of the team means that headteachers, site managers or facilities managers can invite a discussion to see what is viable. Under-utilised or neglected pieces of land can be identified and assessed for potential classroom or sports hall sites.
Talking to the team will highlight any opportunities – so at the very least the school’s stakeholders will know what solutions exist to help all students enjoy their education in the way they should.
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