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New schools to be smaller after coalition cuts building budget

Corridors, assembly halls and canteens are to shrink in size under government proposals for 261 replacement buildings.

The government is to unveil blueprints for a new generation of shrunken schools and has told builders they will be about 15% smaller than those built during Labour's spending boom.

Corridors, assembly halls, canteens and atriums will be squeezed under the proposals, expected this week, which will set the template for 261 replacement school buildings to be erected over the next five years at a cost of £2.5bn.

The tough space standards will be introduced to help hugely reduce costs in the coalition's delayed programme to replace the country's most run-down primary and secondary schools.

The average price of each school is expected to be £7m less than under the previous government's £55bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, which won architectural awards but was cancelled in 2010 by the education secretary, Michael Gove, amid criticism of soaring costs and delays.

Some teachers and architects have voiced concern that the squeeze could cause pupil congestion in corridors, potentially leading to poorer discipline and bullying. They have also warned that smaller assembly halls could undermine attempts to maximise the value for money of school buildings by making them available for community functions after hours.

Others have welcomed the pared-down approach, saying that millions of pounds were wasted under the previous programme on unnecessary consultant fees and extravagant design statements that could have been spent on teaching.

The coalition's school building programme is an almost complete reversal of Labour's ambitious 2003 policy of rebuilding or renewing all 3,500 English secondary schools over 15 years. It came amid soaring public spending on education, which rose from £35bn a year in 2000 to £64bn by 2009, and attracted some of the world's best architects.

In the first four years of the BSF programme, only 42 of the 200 schools that were intended to be built were completed and the budget was underestimated by about £1bn a year, according to a report by the National Audit Office.

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