Schools ‘no longer forced to provide staff rooms or canteens’
Schools are being given new powers to cut down on traditional staff rooms, kitchens, canteens and lockers for pupils under a sweeping overhaul of red tape, it has emerged.
Ministers are axing more than 30 pages of school building regulations in an attempt to make it easier for new providers to open their own state primaries and secondaries.
Previous guidance published by Labour – covering areas such as the number of toilets being provided, the size of playgrounds and the temperature of classrooms – will be scrapped at the end of the month.
The move will sweep away detailed regulations that forced all schools to provide a head teacher’s office and a separate staff room to enable teachers to work and socialise.
For the first time, the regulations no longer cover “facilities for storing pupils’ belongings” such as lockers or cloakrooms.
The Coalition’s new guidance – stretching to just three pages – also makes no mention of school canteens or kitchens.
The previous regulations, which date to 1999, said that schools must provide buildings which “allow for the preparation or serving of food and drinks and the washing of crockery and other utensils” – as well as adequate facilities such as cold storage for packed lunches.
The Department for Education insisted the new measures were intended to remove pages of bureaucratic restrictions that will make it easier and cheaper to provide new school places.
Officials also insisted that issues such as staff rooms and canteens were covered by separate guidelines and denied that this would allow schools to drop them altogether.
But critics claimed that the slimmed down regulations will lead to a drop in standards.
It has already been revealed that the new rules scrap a legal requirement stipulating how much outside space each school must provide for playing fields and playgrounds – prompting claims from charities that it risks undermining the Olympic legacy.
Jacqui O’Neill, from the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said: “This is a retrograde step. It is a drive towards allowing someone using any old building to open a new school, irrespective of whether they are suitable.
“How can you have a school without cooking facilities or providing staff with a room to go to at the end of the day? This is simply going to compromise standards.”
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “These changes simply remove unnecessary duplication that created more work for schools. Recent statistics show 99 per cent of secondary and 73 per cent of primaries have their own kitchens, an increase since last year.”
She added: “It is totally unnecessary to regulate on staffrooms. It should be up to head teachers to organise their schools as they want. We want to reduce red tape and to encourage a more flexible approach to school building.
“All pupils need access to good quality, clean toilets – we trust schools to use their common sense in getting it right. We do not think that this is necessarily best achieved through over-prescriptive regulation.”
The new School Premises Regulations 2012 – covering England – will come into force on October 31.
It sweeps away the previous rules introduced by the last Government in 1999.
The old regulations forced schools to provide one toilet for every 20 pupils aged five or over. For infants, schools had to provide a toilet for every 10 pupils.
Under new plans, schools must provide “suitable toilet and washing facilities” for the “sole use of pupils”, but fails to go into as much detail.
The rules also scrap previous regulations covering pupils’ belongings, which stated: “Given parents’ concerns about school children carrying heavy books and other materials to, and around school, bodies responsible should think carefully about how best to meet this standard.”
In its place, schools are told to maintain facilities “to a standard such as that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare or pupils are ensured”.
The regulations also scrap a requirement that schools “must have accommodation (separate from teaching accommodation) for teachers to use for work and for social purposes”.