It is no secret that government cuts have impacted education in the UK. State schools suffer from a shortage of funding, particularly with regards to sports facilities. Often these are a big investment and therefore get pushed down the list of priorities with a ‘make good and make do’ attitude to current facilities.
In the independent school sector, whilst funding is less of an issue, these are still big investments and can therefore take years to come to fruition, often relying on the generosity of some parents or alumni.
We started Paragon Structures because we are all parents of various aged children – from primary to university. We recognised that the process could be speeded up and budgets could be slashed by using state-of –the-art technology – specifically aluminium substructures and fabric membrane – to create truly 21st-century buildings. We also all have finance backgrounds, as well as development, so bring a fresh set of eyes to how school developments can be funded.
Sport in school should not be a sideline. As well as the physical benefits of sport, the less easily measured confidence and personal development benefits are huge. With modern facilities we can develop healthier, more well-rounded children who go on to be healthier adults.
The UK has some of the highest rates of obesity in Europe. That is no secret, but we also have fast-growing mental health problems including depression, and this is not just in adults. The endorphins released by regular exercise are our body’s natural anti-depressant. I know this from personal experience having gone from a medicated sofa surfer to ultramarathon runner, free of all medication for some years now. I was fortunate to have found running, but if I had had better sporting facilities when I was growing up I may not have suffered in early adulthood as I did. I don’t want the same for my children and so that is why I am passionate about developing the best sporting facilities for a far reduced cost compared with conventional structures.
There has been a lot of research into the power of sport, and the impact of providing sports facilities. The Association of Colleges’ ‘Why Sport Matters’ report highlights many positive and significant reasons to encourage sport. These include that a broad sport and physical activity offer encourages student recruitment. A recent Sport England survey found that one in five pupils said that the sporting opportunities on offer were influential in their decision to apply to a particular college.
The Association of Colleges also points to sport raising self-esteem, confidence and improving behaviour. Sport and the skills learnt through sport, encourage students to learn across the whole of the curriculum.
As well as the impact that sports facilities have on individual students, they also enhance partnerships between the school or college and the local community. Well-managed facilities, which are approached as an investment can also generate income for the school or college.
From an architectural perspective, it is important to look at the lifecycle costs of the building, including the capital outlay, the running costs and the maintenance costs. This ensures that the sports facilities are fully sustainable, through considering issues such as orientation of the building, heating and cooling, as well as the types of materials used for the building. Any sports facilities should also be as flexible as possible, allowing different sports to be played within the facility.