While it has long been a point of contention amongst teachers and educators, the rising number of students within schools is increasingly becoming somewhat of a national crisis.
The Department of Education last year revealed that 343,000 secondary school pupils are in class sizes of 31 or more, a rise of 21 per cent in two years. However, more shockingly there are currently 21,000 students who are being taught in classes with sizes of 36 or more.
Although this is obviously a huge pressure on already stretched and stressed teachers, the rising number of students is also a large burden on school buildings and facilities.
Many school buildings, both primary and secondary were already old and outdated at the turn of the millennium. Fast forward eighteen years and these same buildings are still straining under the pressure of increasing numbers of boisterous children and teenagers each leaving a scratched windowsill, broken tile or name scratched in brickwork!
Although many new school buildings are being built every year, without sufficient funding from the government many LEA’s are being forced to simply extend tired and old school buildings to keep up with the demand of an increasing number of students.
It is estimated that an additional 435,646 pupils will be joining the UK’s secondary school system in 2020, requiring over 14,500 additional secondary classrooms, each with 30 pupils, across the country.
These 14,522 secondary school classrooms would need to be built over the next three years in order to cope with the increase in pupil numbers. In realistic terms, this would equate to over 400 brand-new 1050-pupil secondary schools across the country.
Within the next three years, LEA’s need to invest in new buildings and facilities quickly in order to accommodate the ever increasing number of students entering the education system. Projects need to be completed within a short time scale and cost effective as well as guaranteeing high quality and low maintenance.
One such solution is off site construction in quality controlled factories. Unaffected by adverse weather conditions or shortages of skills or materials, off site construction of school buildings reduces the likelihood of delays to projects and offers little disruption to students’ learning and safety as deliveries and activity on site is minimal.
Projects constructed off site can range from whole schools to single classroom units offering numerous opportunities for schools to extend and expand or create an entirely new learning environment. Units can be assembled with a specific layout suited to a particular function such as science laboratories or food technology, however many modular units can be designed and rearranged to almost all standard classroom requirements and layouts.
As off-site modular classrooms can be relocated and reused on a single school site, they can indeed be a hugely cost effective solution for schools struggling to provide sufficient teaching space for increasing numbers of students.
Off-site construction is already proving to be a popular choice for LEA’s with many schools throughout the UK opting for modular solutions for entire schools and campus facilities outside of the classroom. The Government has already stated in its November budget statement last year that it will favour off-site manufacturing on all publicly funded construction projects from 2019, and that argues well for tackling the ongoing problem of school places.
With the promotion and uptake of off-site modular solutions it seems a very probable reality that in 2020 every school student, both primary and secondary, will be in a suitably sized and equipped learning environment. One in which they have they space to learn, grow and achieve.