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Off-site building solutions to create much-needed dining and social space

According to the National Education Union (NEU), Britain is facing the worst shortage of school places for decades. This is resulting in numerous problems, such as overcrowded classrooms, primary schools expanding beyond an optimum size and children having to travel further to school. 


There have been many warnings about this situation in recent years – for example, in 2016 the Department for Education (DfE) forecast that an extra 750,000 school places will be needed in England by 2025 to keep up with population growth, and in 2017 the Local Government Association (LGA) predicted that schools could be 125,000 places short by 2022 – but the pressure on school places still seems to be as great as ever.


School children walking in front of Off-site buildingFigures released by the DfE show that the nursery and primary school population is projected to stabilise in 2019 at 4.66 million before starting to fall. However, the secondary school population rose to 2.85 million in 2018 and is projected to continue increasing until around 2025, reaching an estimated 3.28 million. The bad news is that an analysis of government figures by the LGA has found that by 2023/24, 52% of English councils may not be able to meet the need for 133,926 secondary school places.


Councils have found themselves in an impossible position as a result of conflicting rules, which place a legal duty on them to ensure adequate school places for children but generally allow only autonomous academies and free schools to be opened to provide more places. In England, most state secondary schools now are academies, which exacerbates the problem because – unlike maintained schools – local authorities don’t have the power to direct academies to expand their intake or offer more places to meet high demand. The NEU considers that academies and free schools have brought in an irrational competitive marketplace for school places rather than the rational planned provision that local authorities were able to guarantee in the past.


On top of the shortage of places for secondary school students, there is also the compounding factor of ongoing cuts in education funding, meaning that expansion through the construction of traditional builds is not always an option. As a consequence, schools are increasingly having to look for alternative solutions that are not only cost-effective but also relatively quick and easy to implement.


Off-site constructed classrooms, dining areas and recreation spaces


One such solution is the off-site building approach to installing classrooms because it ticks all the boxes in terms of cost and being quick to install. But, to complement the new classrooms, there is also often a need for more dining and recreation spaces that are essential for students’ social development. Similar to modular classrooms, the off-site tensile structures and glazed extensions offered by Streetspace meet this need and also tick the same boxes.


Using the latest construction techniques, Streetspace incorporates integrated and creative designs that are functional, effective and future-proof. Off-site constructed extensions allow affordable improvements to be made to a school’s existing infrastructure to provide more space, without dramatically interrupting day-to-day activities or requiring investment in large-scale construction. The other key advantage is that further off-site constructed extensions can be added as needed, making them scalable and flexible.


While the problem of providing enough secondary school places is likely to require fundamental changes to certain aspects of the education sector, off-site constructed classrooms, tensile structures and glazed extensions can play a vital role in meeting demand. They offer a cost-effective solution that can be installed quickly and easily with minimal disruption to school life.


To find out more about how our projects can add dining and social space to your school, please get in contact with our specialist technical team here at Streetspace.