Ahead of the Education Building and Development Officers Group (EBDOG) conference at Birmingham’s ICC on 22 June, Ryan Turner, account manager for the Acivico education programmes team shares insight into the increasing demand for pupil places nationwide and suggests that schools need to start planning to fill the gap…

The latest statistics are predicting an all-time high in the national shortfall of pupil places over the next five years. On September 1st 2017, The local government association website warned “Almost half (49 per cent) of councils across the country are at risk of being unable to meet rising demand for secondary school places within the next five years…. and new analysis of Department for Education figures and local pupil forecasts warns that more than 125,000 children face missing out on a secondary school place by 2022/23.” The London boroughs in particular face a daunting task of having to provide 64,000 additional pupil places in the next six years at current growth rates.

The opportunity to expand pupil intake will be at the forefront of all local authorities’ minds in order to meet the statutory provision of providing pupil places. Schools have their own part to play….

Space is at a premium… while most educational establishments will feel they are already making efficient use of their existing buildings, carrying out an asset survey can pave the way to some creative thinking about reconfiguring what you already have to form a fresh new innovative teaching environment.

So unlock your potential!… you may be surprised at how much more you can do with what you already have. Schools can quite often expand by releasing some internal space that isn’t being used to its full potential and transform it into a valuable new learning area. Most Schools will also have the opportunity of expanding via new builds and extensions where their sites and budgets allow. This will provide a more substantial growth opportunity (greater numbers) but will need to be carefully planned with professional help and guidance to ensure the development is a success.

Avoid the growing pains when expanding your school, Ryan’s top five must-dos…  

1) Review your current asset and critically analyse the use of all spaces, is there potential for internal remodelling to create new teaching areas?

2) Consider carefully the logistics and buildability of any proposed new build or extension and how it will affect the day to day running of the school during the construction period. Some projects will run on for a substantial amount of time and can significantly affect how a school performs. Your project team will need to have your business as usual concerns at the forefront of their plans.

3) Consider orientation and efficiency of any new build scheme. You want the building to work as hard as it can for you in the most efficient way to provide value for money. Coordinating circulation space and ancillary space is key to succeeding in creating lean design footprints.

4) Have an idea of the masterplan for your school site and ensure your current development will not hamper the ability to use the site efficiently or restrict further development in the future.

5) Last but not least seek professional help to assist with planning any substantial build project. A good start is an Architect, Quantity Surveyor and Project Manager who can assist in designing, budgeting and programming your project to ensure it is ultimately a success.

Acivico is the wholly owned company of Birmingham City Council and has been instrumental in the additional primary place programme in Birmingham over the last 7 years working closely with the city’s Education team to deliver over 13,000 additional places. Acivico is also working with Academy trusts within the Birmingham area to expand existing estates.

Ryan Turner will be attending the EBDOG dinner and conference on 21/22 July and will be supporting the Acivico stand in the conference marketplace, come along and speak to Ryan and the team for advice on how Acivico can help you grow your school with a new build or refurbishment project.

The national EBDOG conference is being hosting by Birmingham in 2018. Read more about the work of EBDOG and the conference here