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Simple solutions for safer schools

Chris Bryant, Gintare Kapociute, Jenny Lyon, Matt Pattenden, Roz Peebles, Caspar Rodgers, Adam Shapland, Yip Siu and Tristan Wigfall, alma-nac, UK

Awards RIBA President's Awards for Research 2021
Category Annual theme: Education

Opportunities were found throughout the schools, with the school gate identified as a key area for positive change, becoming the physical link between the school and the community.

Simple Solutions for Safer Schools (SSFSS) is a design manual, interpreting and communicating government advice to provide design-orientated solutions for school operators to apply to safeguard the physical and mental health of their staff, pupils, and pupils’ parents during the Covid pandemic.

This document was prepared in collaboration with eight schools from a single London borough, in relation to the government published advice regarding the adaption of education settings. This manual was published twice. Once following the first period of lockdown in 2020, then adapted and re-published to accommodate new governmental advice and school knowledge following the third period of lockdown in 2021.

The aim of the project was to assist school operators to understand the new guidelines, to adapt them to the specifics of their physical environments, to communicate the proposed changes to concerned pupils and parents, all the while ensuring that both the physical and organisational changes were both affordable, achievable, and non-detrimental to the mental health of their staff or pupils. The wider intent of the project was to communicate the resulting ideas such that they may be transferrable to any school environment, then through the wider dissemination of the manual, allow for any school to incorporate and build on these ideas.

This was a real time collaboration with school leaders to create clear, positive interpretations of architectural statutory requirements, relating to the real opportunities and limitations set by their physical environments. There was no available past research interpreting the Covid safety requirements in school environments. Research was undertaken by interview with headteachers and teachers, physical assessments of school settings, and desktop analysis of regulations.

The document’s success was reported anecdotally as hugely valuable. The report was subsequently downloaded hundreds of times across 15 countries, suggesting successful wider distribution and uptake of the content.

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