News story

Schools to be freed from over-prescriptive buildings rules

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Schools across England are to be freed from confusing and unnecessary regulations on school buildings.

  • Common sense approach to replace unnecessary regulation

  • Guidance for schools reduced to a quarter

Schools across England are to be freed from confusing and unnecessary regulations on school buildings.

Ministers are consulting on simplifying and reducing the regulations around school buildings, as part of the independent Capital Review recommendations, which proposed how to build and maintain school buildings better and more cost effectively. The new proposals provide strong safeguards, especially for vulnerable pupils, but free up schools to take a more common sense approach.

The current regulations for maintained and independent schools contain some over-prescriptive and burdensome rules. This includes:

  • Complicated lighting requirements - “light fittings must not produce a glare index of more than 19”. Schools would find it impossible to know whether they meet them without getting in technical experts. However, safeguards will remain in place for children with special educational needs to ensure schools get specialist advice when required.
  • Specific requirements on the numbers of toilets and wash basins per pupils. For example, washrooms in secondary schools with three or more toilets or urinals must have two thirds the number of sinks. Under the proposed changes schools will still have to provide well planned and designed facilities but will be freed from unnecessary over-prescription.
  • Schools having to provide a space to dry pupils’ coats. Schools will instead take a common sense approach making sure there are suitable facilities.
  • Boarding schools have to have at least 0.9m between beds in dormitories and provide at least 2.3m² of living space per pupil. This over-prescription will be removed, but schools will still have to follow the relevant fire regulations and provide suitable facilities.

Under the new proposals, the same regulations will apply to all schools. The relevant supporting guidance will also be simplified, going from 32 pages to just eight pages of clear and concise advice.

A further 5,000 pages of other guidance on school buildings will be reduced next year, by around 75 per cent. It includes technical guidance that would be irrelevant for schools and out-of-date advice.

Schools Minister Lord Hill said:

Over the years, schools have been overloaded with unclear and sometimes contradictory rules on school buildings.

Making sure we have suitable and safe school buildings is paramount. That is why are proposing to streamline the regulations, remove unnecessary duplication and free up schools to take a common sense approach. One set of clear regulations for maintained and independent schools makes it simpler for everyone.

We are already building new schools quicker and with better value for money than ever before. These changes will help speed this up further, by simplifying the process.

The consultation sets out a number of areas where the Government plans to remove regulations because they are irrelevant or duplicated in other pieces of legislation. For example, specific regulations about heating or ventilation are covered in the Workplace Regulations and the Building Regulations.

The premises regulations consultation, including the proposed revised guidance, can be found on our consultations website. It closes on 26 January 2012.

Notes for editors

  1. The School Premises Regulationsspecify minimum standards for the buildings of maintained schools in England.

  2. The Independent Schools Standards (Part V) are similar rules that apply to independent schools.

  3. The current 32-page guidance linked to the School Premises Regulations.

  4. The Department has also today allocated the additional £500m basic need funding to local authorities faced significant shortages of school places. Details can be found in the schools capital section of our website.

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