Increasing school workshop sizes would breach health and safety rules and put children in danger
I teach technology and design in one of the leading schools in Northern Ireland, and I am very concerned about a recent decision by many schools' senior management teams and the Education Authority to increase practical class set numbers from a maximum of 20 pupils to a possible 26.
There are certain health and safety issues that are being ignored that are very specific to a technology and design workshop environment. These are British Standard regulations that apply to all workshops in industry and schools, the main one being the area of floor space per person.
The regulations say that each person should have the equivalent of four square metres. The standard school workshop was designed with this in mind and, on average, is 90 square metres.
With a class of 20 and one teacher, this allows for an extra six square metres, with a total used space of 84 square metres.
The extra six can be used if a classroom assistant is required by a pupil and to allow for any through traffic of other people, such as technicians.
If class numbers increase by one, we are still within the guidance, at 88 square metres, but this does not include assistants or technicians.
We are being told we will have 22-23 pupils in each class in August, pushing us to a floorspace of 92/96 square metres, which is above the British Standard guidelines.
In industry, this would be classified as unsafe, but we are on the verge of making it acceptable for children aged 11 to 15.
I would like this to be made public knowledge, as it seems to be being forced through and will only be made public when someone's child is injured due to overcrowding.
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