Forum proposes school action plan to help pupils return safely

The CICV Forum has submitted a proposed building action plan to the Scottish Government which it claims would help reopen schools across the country and get children back to lessons safely.

The campaigning collective has written to Kevin Stewart, MSP, the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning, outlining a series of practical proposals which it says would minimise costs and interventions.

Suggested measures include repurposing existing vacant property near schools, or building temporary accommodation in suitable locations with a common design approach, including fit-out, to ensure compliance with site operating procedures (SOPs).

Inspired by other emergency situations, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the fire at the Glasgow School of Art, the Forum claims such measures would ensure the health and safety of staff and pupils, and also stimulate the economy by providing a pipeline of work for consultants and contractors.  

Hew Edgar, chair of the Futures sub-group of the Forum and Interim Head of UK Policy at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), said: “We have a wealth of consultants and contractors who could participate in such a project.

“Scottish contracting, manufacturing and supplier industries could quickly gear up to meet this pressing need for children, staff, families and the economy, and therefore maximise the economic multiplier benefits for the country.”

The move comes after John Swinney, MSP, the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, said on 23 June that the current aim was to re-open schools full time rather than using a “blended model”.

In its letter, the Forum says: “We have discussed the potential for the industry to adopt steps by which a full return to learning may take place and suggest there are a spectrum of measures to minimise cost and the need for intervention.

“These include the rapid identification of opportunities to build temporary accommodation, such as modular buildings/marquees etc, in school playgrounds or adjacent fallow ground to increase school capacity.

“These could each follow a common design approach, and fitted out to minimise the possibility of cross-contamination between students both inside and outside the classroom.

“Contractors on the internal fit-out of these units could undertake the work and by being a generic design, a programme of works be established to ensure compliance with SOPs.

“If such design principles were agreed, suppliers across Scotland will respond which would stimulate the construction industry and create a solution to ensure the continued education of Scotland’s school pupils during this time.

“This will create a short-term pipeline of work for consultants and contractors across Scotland and the right environment for the continuation of existing apprentices work-based evidence and future apprenticeship opportunities.”

The letter endorses earlier suggestions by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, which has already written to Mr Stewart regarding innovative thinking on the subject of school capacity during the crisis.

Hew added: “Scotland is very well based to deliver such a programme with the quality of construction consultants within the industry, quality of contractors and using the Construction Scotland Innovation Centre.

“It would, of course, be essential that the temporary accommodation be built of sustainable materials and consideration given to their future use when we are in the positive position where they can be removed and CICV Forum would be very happy to work with the Scottish Government, and Public Health Scotland, on this proposal.”

The proposal is the latest initiative from the Forum which, since the beginning of the enforced industry shutdown, has been at the forefront of positive actions to benefit the sector, work colleagues and the community.

Since then, it has been drawing on the collective expertise of its members to maintain a steady supply of information and practical advice to the sector as well as carrying out surveys, producing animations and posters, hosting webinars and conducting regular dialogue with Government Ministers.