The Royal Society of Ulster Architects has submitted its response to a consultation by the Education Authority on their draft Strategic Area Plan which aims to shape proposed changes to education provision for the next 5 years.
In its response, RSUA focussed on the need to ensure access to schools and has called on the Education Authority to ensure that newly built schools and their immediate surroundings enable everyone to walk, wheel or cycle to and from their homes.
In enabling sustainable travel to and from school, the area plan can contribute to Northern Ireland’s new commitments under the Climate Act by reducing car journeys.
Ensuring sustainable travel to and from newly built schools requires changes to the Sustainable Schools Policy which sets what constitutes reasonable travel time and is currently based on travel by vehicle.
In seeking to address this, the RSUA response includes a proposal that the Authority should monitor the number of children who could reasonably walk, cycle or wheel to school if the appropriate infrastructure was put in place to facilitate these forms of transport.
The data should then be used in area planning, particularly the location of schools and the features and environment they operate in which can promote those modes of travel.
The Area Plan also sought to explore innovative options regarding the schools’ estate such as co-location. The RSUA response welcomed the exploration of this model which can reduce maintenance burdens on the Authority by sharing facilities with other users.
RSUA welcomed retaining the existing schools’ estate which, alongside the co-location or sharing of facilities will impact the level of embodied carbon and the carbon consequence of new facilities.
The RSUA response also proposed that the area plan include spending per pupil comparisons across these islands which would assist in sustainability planning.
RSUA will monitor the progress of the Area Plan and the responses by the Authority and consequently by the Executive.