What next for schools?
As temporary works designers, we have been working with Portakabin for some time designing foundations and drainage for modular buildings, which come in a variety of sizes and configurations to suit almost any set of circumstances.
Many of the projects we worked on before the coronavirus crisis hit were for education establishments: either to increase the capacity of the school to meet a specific demand or to provide a temporary school whilst the existing school is demolished and rebuilt.
Now as we face a gradual return to some semblance of normality, the need to get children back to school has become a major issue.
Schools were closed during lockdown to all but the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils but following appropriate adaptations and changes to teaching practice, more pupils are expected to return in the coming weeks.
It’s a difficult situation for the school senior management, staff and parents, who all recognise the damage an extended lockdown will have on the education of those children still unable to get back to school.
We have to keep educating our young people and work out how to do it safely. School is the best place for this; working from home doesn’t work for all pupils particularly the most disadvantaged.
I read one report recently, where a socially distanced class had space for just eight desks. Therefore, to educate the same number of pupils for the same length of time, either more classrooms and teachers are needed or just bigger classrooms and teachers with loud voices.
Prime Minister’s Questions
Now the issue has become a political football with the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, demanding the government look at the possibility of erecting temporary school buildings to provide more space for pupils to return.
Whilst other views include using other buildings like community halls, libraries, hotels, churches and other faith groups’ buildings. But surely the familiar school premises are the best environment for children that have already faced tremendous disruption.
It’s not just teaching though that requires more space, but circulation around the school, toilet facilities and hand cleaning, together with somewhere to eat lunch.
The quickest and easiest way that can be achieved is with temporary, modular accommodation – exactly the sort of thing we have been working on with Portakabin (other suppliers are available).
As well as adding space, existing schools can be adapted, with for example, a wall between two classrooms removed to make a double-size classroom so more pupils could be taught by a single teacher.
The novel coronavirus is not going to go away so we have to work out how to live with it. I’m not saying that additional space is the solution to all schools’ problems but it could be part of the solution, if the Government is serious and steps up with the necessary funds.