The RIBA is disappointed to hear Michael Gove’s comments in the Queen’s Speech debate on education yesterday, in which he suggested that funds from the Building Schools for the Future programme have been inefficiently spent on architects. This is further to his previous claim that architects were “creaming off cash”under the Government’s programme.
In a statement, RIBA President Ruth Reed said:
“It is widely accepted that children’s attainment, happiness and productivity can be much better in buildings that are well designed. Intelligent use of space can foster different ways of learning, and directly affect behaviour and attainment, in a similar way to a workplace environment - think about the success of companies such as Google who radically invest in their office space. Are students inspired to learn in an environment where hardly anything has changed over the past 40 years? The evidence suggest not. Some of the most visible indicators of improvement in performance over the last few years have been through the Academy programme, which have resulted in high quality, flexible environments, delivered value for money and ultimately improved attainment among pupils.
“Westminster Academy is a great example of this. Shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2008, staff and students advocate the value that the building has brought to the school, in providing a fantastic asset for a very deprived community. The headteacher believes that the design of the building has made a real difference to the aspiration and attainment of pupils.
“This is not to say that Building Schools for the Future has not wasted money; the method for procuring the buildings is inefficient and takes too long. The waste in time and cash is not down to architects, but down to a system that creates unnecessary cost by forcing competing contractors to create three designs, two of which are cast aside when the winner is selected. Losing contractors waste many millions of pounds per failed bid, which they then seek to claw back through future contracts – thereby increasing project costs and essentially getting paid back by the public purse for their failed bids.
“The RIBA, working with the wider industry has developed a solution to the current system called Smart Procurement; and we will continue to lobby the Government to adopt it. If applied this will cut costs, save considerable time, and produce better designed buildings. Working to these principles essentially removes the duplication and waste in the process.
“We appreciate the new coalition Government has a different approach to schools and we are operating under financially constrained time. But purporting a myth that architects were part of the problem is missing the real point – architects have made a key contribution towards making schools a better environment for learners. It is the system that created waste, not those that delivered to it.”