Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis


Safer School Construction Initiative

Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction

Download the Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction

Forthcoming Translations of the Guidance Notes

  • Arabic (translation overseen by INEE Arabic Language Community)
  • Tamil (translation overseen by UNICEF Sri Lanka)


What are the Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction?

Developed in a widely consultative manner under the leadership of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) at the World Bank, and in partnership with the Coalition for Global School Safety and Disaster Prevention Education, the IASC Education Cluster and the International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction, these Guidance Notes provide a framework of guiding principles and general steps to develop a context-specific plan to address a critical gap to reaching the Education for All (EFA) and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through the disaster resilient construction and retrofitting of school buildings. The guidance notes briefly address the need and rationale for safer school buildings; recommend a series of suggested steps that highlight key points that should be considered when planning a safer school construction and/or retrofitting initiative; and identify basic design principles and requirements a school building must meet to provide a greater level of protection. Finally, the Guidance Notes provide a list of key resources for more detailed, technical and context-specific information.


Why are the Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction important?

At a time when the frequency and magnitude of extreme climatic events is rising, a growing number of the world’s school-going children are increasingly exposed to earthquakes, wildfires, floods, cyclones, landslides and other natural hazards. Indeed, although children spend up to 50 percent of their waking hours in school facilities, all too often schools are not constructed or maintained to be disaster resilient, as these figures demonstrate:

  • Chinese earthquake (2008): More than 7,000 children were killed in their schools and an estimated 7,000 classrooms were destroyed.
  • The cyclone in Bangladesh (2007) destroyed 496 school buildings and damaged 2,110 more.
  • The Super Typhoon Durian in the Philippines caused $20m USD damage to school, including 90-100% of school buildings in three cities and 50-60% of school buildings in two other cities.
  • The earthquake in Pakistan (2005) killed at least 17,000 students in schools and seriously injured another 50,000, leaving many disabled and over 300,000 children affected. Moreover 10,000 school buildings were destroyed; in some districts 80% of schools were destroyed.
  • Hurricane Katrina in the United States (2005) destroyed 56 schools and damaged 1,162 more. 700 schools were closed and 372,000 children displaced. $2.8billion USD was spent to educate displaced students for a year.


The death of children and adults in these schools causes irreplaceable loss to families, communities and countries and life-long injury to millions of children around the world. The time to say NO MORE to these preventable deaths is NOW; every new school must be constructed as a safer school and existing unsafe schools must be retrofitted to be disaster resilient. The EFA and MDG goals will not be achieved without the construction of safer and more disaster resilient education facilities.


Who Should Use the Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction?


  • Policymakers and planners of local, regional and national government bodies
  • Bi- and multilateral donor agencies
  • United Nations agencies
  • Disaster management organizations
  • NGOs and community-based organisations
  • Engineers, architects, planners and construction managers
  • Academic institutions and educators
  • Education sector groups and/or clusters


How should the Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction be used?


These Guidance Notes can be adapted to the local context and used to:

  • Guide discussion, planning and design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of school construction, including strengthening Education Sector Plans and to develop National Action Plan for Safe Schools
  • Inform the design of training and capacity building on safer school construction
  • Inform collaborative advocacy on issues related to safer school construction


How can I give feedback to improve the Guidance Notes?


This is an evolving document that will be revised to include new and appropriate research, insights and practices, thereby maintaining its relevancy and usefulness. INEE requests feedback on the relevance and applicability of these Guidance Notes in order to inform a future update. Please fill out the Feedback Form and return it to the INEE Secretariat at


How were the Guidance Notes Developed?

The development of the Guidance Notes was led by a collaborative partnership between INEE and the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR). The content was developed and refined by a consultative process involving hundreds of experts and practitioners from around the world who provided suggestions drawn from experience and sound research. In addition, the development involved an extensive vetting process of existing materials, good practices and case studies on safer school construction. As a result, the suggestions contained within the guidance notes are drawn from a wide variety of individuals and groups, including governments, donors, disaster management organizations, engineers and architects, planners, construction managers, multilateral organizations, UN agencies, NGOs, academic institutions and educators. Therefore, the development of these important Guidance Notes involved not only strong inter-agency partnership but also inter-sectoral partnership, particularly with shelter design and construction communities. In this, INEE drew upon its companionship with Sphere as well as its linkages with ISDR’s Knowledge and Education Platform, the Coalition for Global School Safety, the IASC Emergency Shelter and Education Clusters, and many other partners.


Case Studies on Safer School Construction

As part of the development process, INEE members and partners from all over the world submitted case studies based on their experience with issues related to Safer School Construction. These case studies were used to inform the Guidance Notes.



Click here for a list of technical experts, workshop participants and collaborators who contributed to these Safer School Construction Guidance Notes.



Click here for a list of additional information and other resources from the Guidance Notes on Safer School Construction