Learning lessons from the Scottish school building programme: providing an accessible, sustainable environment for 21st century education

David Grierson, Claire Hyland

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The largest school building programme in the history of Scotland is taking place from 2000–2011 to extensively refurbish or replace 21% of local authority schools. Thereafter, the Scottish government has pledged to improve all schools remaining in poor or bad “condition” or “suitability” (Scottish Government, 2009). Based on the School Estate Statistics 2010 (Scottish Government, 2010), 36% of the school estate could still require improvement work. As the first stage in this long-term building programme draws to a close, it is necessary to reflect on the performance of new and refurbished school buildings in meeting the requirements of 21st century education. This paper argues that further research is required to establish the strengths and weaknesses of accessible design in Scotland’s new and refurbished schools. Reference is made to relevant national and global educational initiatives, such as “Inclusive Education” and “Education for Sustainable Development”, and changes to the national curriculum in the form of the new Curriculum for Excellence. A brief summary of Scottish government design guidance also helps to establish the requirements of the built environment in helping to deliver modern education. “Improving the School Estate” (Audit Scotland, 2008), the most comprehensive study of new and refurbished school buildings in Scotland, found the worst performing factors to be lighting, temperature, acoustics, and air quality. The adverse effects that these factors can have on all people, and particularly those with impairments or additional support needs, are examined. It is concluded that further investigations within the area of ac- cessible design in Scotland’s new and refurbished schools should be undertaken in order to achieve an inclusive, inspirational, and sustainable learning environment for current and future generations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-76
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Sustainability
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • architecture
  • school buildings
  • accessibility
  • sustainability
  • educational environments

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