English Heritage
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New publications celebrate historic schools

Refurbishing old school buildings is often the best use of resources and the most sustainable way of modernising them, English Heritage said yesterday (25th January) as it launched two new publications that highlight the value and potential of older schools.

A recent survey by English Heritage of 1,723 adults shows that two thirds think that refurbishing and extending old schools is more environmentally friendly than demolishing them and rebuilding new ones.

Lady bankes School, Pinner In the same survey, 83% of respondents feel that local councils should do more to find new uses for old, empty schools, and almost half (47%) feel that schools with historic character provide a more inspiring educational environment than modern ones. Three in four also say that historic schools contribute to the identity of a local area.

A new guidance document, Refurbishing Historic Schools Buildings, published today by English Heritage with the support of the Department of Children, Schools and Families, demonstrates the huge potential and flexibility of traditional school buildings. They can be adapted, made more energy efficient and expanded with new buildings alongside.

Baroness Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, said: “Inspirational surroundings can have a hugely enriching effect on education. And as we are recognising through more research, many historic school buildings are beautifully designed and were built to last; some reflect changes in educational practice and have historical significance too, and many are landmark buildings which mean so much to local communities.

“The Government’s current school investment programme is unique in scale and vital in ensuring that our country’s school estate provides the best possible learning environment for many years to come. But we believe that local education authorities need to strike the best balance between replacement and refurbishment. The latter is often the more environmentally sensitive and effective solution. It uses what we have got, minimises requirements for new materials and cuts demolition waste, and it also helps to reinforce people’s sense of belonging and local identity.”

English Heritage has also published a new book, England’s Schools, by architectural historian Elain Harwood. It is a concise history of school buildings across England from medieval times to the 1980s, analysing how social attitudes have been expressed in their architecture and planning.

For more information on Refurbishing Historic School Buildings and England’s Schools, please go to www.english-heritage.org.uk/historicschools.

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