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January 2013 – New focus for schools

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At this time last year, in the first issue of NSC of 2012, we looked forward against a fairly gloomy economic backdrop to school building resuming after the halt called by the government to the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme. As you can see from the special supplement distributed with this first issue of NSC of 2013 – and with a range of other key construction weekly and monthly magazines – those hopes are being realised.

Important decisions have now been made relating to how the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) that replaced BSF will be delivered, allowing work to get under way again in a sector of vital demand for steel construction – around 70% of schools are steel framed, accounting for about 10% of the constructional steelwork used in the UK.

This does not mean that the happy days of BSF are entirely with us again; investment in school building is unlikely to be on as ambitious a scale as the BSF programme was for a very long time, if ever. There is a new focus on cost effectiveness and design ambitions have been scaled back. Yet architects, structural engineers, contractors and the steelwork contractors who they work with are confident of continuing to deliver high quality educational facilities of all types – primary and secondary schools, higher and further education buildings and student accommodation – to match what the UK finances can afford. Our supplement contains plenty of examples of this.

Steel’s proven cost effectiveness, high sustainability credentials and ability to create the light, airy, friendly, modern and flexible spaces that education thrives in will doubtless mean that the education that most of the UK’s children benefit from – still one of the best in the world, despite any faults – will take place in a steel framed building. Something to be proud of.

Detailed background and design advice on the use of steel in education can of course be found on the new steel construction sector website – or online encyclopaedia – at This is proving to be an invaluable first stop for anyone needing practical information, or a link to where else to go to find it, on any steel construction related topic. There is an entire section dedicated to the use of steel in education which will repay a visit, and we have an article outlining what is available on the website for the various sectors on page 20 of this issue of NSC.

Nick Barrett

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