Shaping the Future of Welsh Schools

Education is at the heart of creating a successful life for a child. It is the foundation upon which they can build a life, explore ideas and play a role in their community.

15th January 2015

Education is therefore an intrinsic element of a successful Welsh economy. That’s why the Welsh Government is investing in plans to build and refurbish schools across Wales to create the best possible learning environment as part of its 21st Century Schools and Education Capital Programme.  In partnership with local authorities £1.4bn of funding has been allocated for the first wave of the Programme, Band A, with more than 150 projects to be delivered by 2019.   It is a massive undertaking that complements a whole host of other educational initiatives to raise standards. 

This investment signals an opportunity for our construction and design community to work in partnership with educational professionals, advisors, head teachers, teachers as well as young people and parents, to make a radical improvement to, not just the school facilities, but the learning experience of children and young people. But whilst this cash injection looks great on paper, it will come to nothing if it is not spent effectively and efficiently. That is why Constructing Excellence in Wales has been asked by the Welsh Government to work with the construction and education sectors to support the delivery of this critical £1.4bn phase of the programme.

Jane Wade, 21st Century Schools’ project director for CEW, says: “The Welsh Government’s investment to raise the standards of school buildings shows its commitment to providing the best learning environment for our young people. However, in these times of constrained resources it is vital that we create opportunities to make this public funding go as far as possible – that’s the task for CEW and we’re pleased to be supporting the Government.”

Our aim is to improve and optimise the design, procurement and delivery of these new schools in partnership with the private and public sectors as well as laying the building blocks for more schools to be built in the future as more funding becomes available. We will be applying the lessons learned and best practices from our Award winners and Exemplar projects as well as findings from across the rest of the UK, Europe and elsewhere.

It is important to challenge convention as well as embrace what has succeeded to put together a winning formula. That’s why we are carrying out a comprehensive review of current designs, costs and procurement methods, as well as an extensive programme of stakeholder engagement and consultation. We will also be integrating this work with other aspects of our programme including reducing carbon impacts, better managing construction waste through our Enabling Zero Waste programme and maximising community benefits. This will provide us with a far more holistic and long term solution based on true value for money.

But as we work towards our initial recommendations in early 2015 we must not lose sight of our overall aims. Funding must and will be managed effectively but improving outcomes for children and the school’s wider communities have to come first. That means an emphasis on a collaborative process involving all stakeholders. Central to this is a consistent and smart approach to the design, procurement and delivery of schools. By making this a priority we have a great opportunity to provide more schools, to an optimum size and specification with the facilities to support teaching and learning. Then we can provide a better environment for our young people, reduce our carbon footprint and maximise benefits for our communities through business and job opportunities, training and upskilling. All against a backdrop of continuing economic constraints!

If we do this then the impact and extent of the 21st Century Schools and Education Capital Programme can be maximised and the value of the investment shared across Welsh communities.