Children in classroom; Children in classroom;

Global Program for Safer Schools, Global

Undertaking research into defining safer schools

We have been contracted by the World Bank and GFDRR since 2014 to provide technical support to the Global Program for Safer Schools (GPSS).

Natural disasters often damage or destroy education infrastructure, threatening educational opportunities and risking the lives of school children. Recent efforts to improve education have focused on school disaster management and risk reduction education. This is now being complemented with a focus on the physical safety of safer learning facilities, in line with Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

In 2023 we continued our work on the program, providing technical assistance on the development of a "statewide strategy to build resilient and equitable schools in Nagaland". Nagaland is a remote region in North-Eastern India and its geographic position and poor infrastructure make it exposed to a variety of hazards, including earthquakes, landslides and flash floods. During the project, the team developed both a prioritisation framework to inform future investment plans and intervention guidelines which responded to the key infrastructure deficiencies identified from schools surveys conducted across the state.

About the program

GPSS was launched by the Global Facility for Disaster Risk and Reduction (GFDRR) as a technical assistance program that targets countries where there is an ongoing or proposed investment in education infrastructure.

GPSS aims to make school facilities and the communities they serve more resilient to natural hazards. The program works to reduce the physical impact of disasters on education infrastructure and minimize the negative educational outcomes that result from disasters.

The GPSS is highly appreciative of the contribution of Arup International Development. For each assignment Arup International Development managed to bring together the right experts for the assignment to deliver high quality work within agreed deadlines. Building on the collaboration of the last three years, the GPPS looks forward to continue to work with Arup as one of its key partners. ” Vica Rosario Bogaerts DRM Specialist, The World Bank Group

Our involvement in GPSS has resulted in a variety of activities and outputs:

Characteristics of a Safer School

A report that identifies the 10 characteristics of a safer school and provides guidance on how to assess existing and new schools in response to hazard, exposure and vulnerability. Although the issues covered are technical, the report is written for a wider non-technical audience.

Program Reports

Based on field missions to disaster prone countries (including Afghanistan, Armenia, Indonesia, Mongolia, Mozambique, Samoa and Tonga, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Malawi and Morocco), to carry out a holistic contextual diagnosis of education infrastructure (including natural hazards, existing school infrastructure, implementation process, regulatory environment and financial environment) in order to provide recommendations to prioritize and plan investments for safer education infrastructure.

Post Disaster Technical Assistance

In Vanuatu, following Tropical Cyclone Pam, the objectives were to understand the damage to education infrastructure, government priorities, and a diagnostic of the school sector to inform a reconstruction and rehabilitation program. Assistance in Nepal after the 2015 earthquakes, focused on developing and implementing a Structural Integrity Damage Assessment (SIDA) methodology in order to establish a baseline database on existing education infrastructure, and undertake analysis to inform preliminary recovery and reconstruction investment plans for education infrastructure.Following Cyclone Gita, technical support was provided during a World Bank mission to Tonga to support the preparation of the World Bank’s “Damage and Losses Assessment Report” for the School and Health Infrastructure.


The Safer Schools Roadmap and Recovery and Reconstruction Roadmap were developed for use by World Bank Task Teams in both pre disaster preparedness, and post disaster contexts. The Roadmaps set out a five step process to enable the World Bank to engage with governments to promote informed investment in the safety of new or existing education infrastructure at risk from natural hazards.

Toolkits and Case Studies

Produced to complement the Roadmaps, they provide a detailed reference list and catalogue of practical tools to be used in the development of investment plans, and offer illustrated examples of the activities and steps.

Towards Safer School Construction Guide

We contributed through the Steering Group in partnership with GFDRR, Save the Children, and UNESCO. This guide - Towards Safer School construction: A community based Approach - is for development and humanitarian organizations, and governments to demonstrate how community based approaches can be integrated throughout the planning, design, construction, and operation processes. Each stage is linked to opportunities beyond construction that can build resilience throughout the community.