The Education and Skills Committee has released its report on "Sustainable Schools: Are we building schools for the future?". It concludes that the Government's investment in schools represents an unprecedented opportunity to ensure that all of the physical spaces which pupils occupy effectively support their learning, but that there are a number of issues which need to be addressed to make sure that the investment is used to maximum effect.

"Take the time to get it right" is the clearest message that the Committee identified to ensure the success of the Government's programme Building Schools for the Future (BSF). Greater involvement of teachers, other school staff and pupils is needed in the planning stage and maintaining this dialogue is the best way for local authorities to help to create an excellent learning environment.

What do we want education to be in the 21st century?

According to the report this is the crucial question and one that has not been fully answered by the Government, despite its declaration that educational transformation is at the heart of BSF.

The Committee asks the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to provide "a clear statement of the national ambitions for 21st century education". This should provide guidance for local authorities to encourage innovation and educational transformation. Sustainability is another key part of BSF. There are a large number of factors which go towards making a school sustainable, of which the level of carbon emissions is one of the most significant.

The Government must address the issue of schools' carbon emissions if it wants to lead by example in cutting emissions created by the public sector building stock. The ideal, according to the report, would be for all new school buildings to be carbon neutral.


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