Don’t let car parking dominate school grounds, says CABE
23 March 2010
Jane Barraclough, 020 7070 6771, firstname.lastname@example.org
CABE has today (23 March 2010) warned that while the standard of proposed new school buildings is rapidly improving, the design of school grounds is not.
Car parking for teachers and visitors dominates many proposals, while play areas are often uninspiring and do not recognise the varying needs and ages of different pupils. Some grounds are designed to face north. Others would become narrow wind tunnels. And often the grounds appear designed in isolation from the buildings: you find classrooms without easy access to the grounds, and in one case a performance courtyard with no direct links to the hall or drama studios.
By contrast, CABE believes that good school grounds should provide attractive space for socialising, exercising and learning. When properly designed, the grounds can enhance the quality of the whole school environment for relatively little cost. The best designs go beyond conventional exercise spaces, such as pitches and courts. One impressive scheme seen by CABE had a pond and habitat section with a ‘dig and delve’ area.
CABE has now published six best practice case studies on school grounds. They include the American School in London, on a tight inner-city site, where extensive consultation with staff and students has led to well-designed outdoor spaces which include a rock wall, an allotment and seating areas to hold classes.
Speaking at today’s Learning through Landscapes conference, Richard Simmons, chief executive of CABE, said: ‘If some of the designs that we are seeing are built out then teachers and pupils face the prospect of spending playtime in the car park. A school is judged by the whole site and not just the buildings, but many school grounds display a failure of imagination.’
School grounds are one of the 10 criteria used by CABE to assess design quality in the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. The design of school grounds also relates to other criteria such as having a convincing environmental strategy, making best use of the site, feeling safe and creating a welcoming entrance for the school community.
With the introduction of a minimum design standard for BSF schools, designs that score poorly will not proceed through procurement and into construction.
Notes to editors
- CABE’s case studies on school grounds are:
- In order to help BSF bidding teams achieve high-quality designs, CABE has developed a new online resource, ‘Successful school design’, with practical advice and guidance on the design strategies needed to meet the 10 criteria used by the schools design panel. This includes annotated examples of good schemes seen by the panel. The resource can be seen here: www.cabe.org.uk/design-review/schools. The ten criteria are listed below:
- Identity and context: making a school the students and community can be proud of
- Site plan: making the best use of the site
- School grounds: making assets of the outdoor spaces
- Organisation: creating a clear diagram for the buildings
- Buildings: making form, massing and appearance work together
- Interiors: creating excellent spaces for learning and teaching
- Resources: deploying convincing environmental strategies
- Feeling safe: creating a secure and welcoming place
- Long life, loose fit: creating a school that can adapt and evolve in the future
- Successful whole: making a design that works in the round.
- The questions to be considered when designing school grounds can be found here: /design-review/schools/school-grounds-questions
- CABE is the government’s advisor on architecture, urban design and public space. As a public body, we encourage policymakers to create places that work for people. We help local planners apply national design policy and offer expert advice to developers and architects. We show public sector clients how to commission buildings that meet the needs of their users. And we seek to inspire the public to demand more from their buildings and spaces. Advising, influencing and inspiring, we work to create well-designed, welcoming places. www.cabe.org.uk