Tuesday, 20 January 2009

21st Century Knowsley 'Centre for Learning' opens.....

The first of the new fabulous BSF (Building Schools of the Future) Centres for Learning has opened in Knowlsey. With a fabulous if slightly controversial design, students are really enjoying the new approaches to learning in their specially designed spaces.

With few walls and a variety of agile learning zones, combined with the large multi purpose learning / performance / social space in the wonderful massive space, complete with atrium shown above, students cannot believe that this is THEIR learning environment.

Students should have state of the art 21st century learning environments -it will help raise their aspirations and allow them to work in a wide variety of ways. All round them students see new office buildings, shopping malls, cinemas reflecting the total desire for excellence and best practice.

There is massive world wide interest in the new learning centres, which are being built by Balfour Beatty, with whom I do absolutely masses of work. With one Centre for learning now open, there are six more to open over the twelve months replacing all Knowsley secondary schools. Many people are looking forward to visiting them to experience first hand just how great the students think they are.


Anonymous said...

I don't know who you are but you seem to be really into this bsf. Maybe I would be if I didn't feel so left in the dark (like a mushroom?). Presently , I teach in a classroom with 15 to 32 pupils sat in front of me. They stay there for an hour. I repeat this 5 times a day. This is what I have done for many years. In a few months time I will walk into a Centre for Learning as you have described and be expected to teach. The problem is, nobody will give me any clues as to how to do it. None of us has had any real training. We are really concerned. Even more bizarre - my department is due for an internal inspection this month. What is the point when we will be judged on completely different criterion next year. I only want some kind of clue. PLEASE!

Gareth Long said...

Hi and thanks for writing...

Ongoing continuing professional development is vital for all teachers as new teaching pedagogies are increasingly coming into play. Even the trend to longer lessons, project based learning, cross curriculuar approaches to learning, supported by far greater use of new technologies all require explanation, modelling, confidence building and so on. (Having said that, some primary colleagues have been doing this for years).

This is especially true as students and staff move into brand new facilities that provide a range of agile spaces and allow all ranges of learning styles, from large lead lessons to small group collaborative work through to individual research and more convential straight teaching.

I have always advocated that preparing learners and teachers should be an ongoing process no matter what the building they are in. Our young learners today are changing and the way they want to learn is changing - even if they are not in a new building.

Preparing staff for a move into radical new learning spaces takes as long as the whole design and build process. No can just move into a new space and 'do it different' on day one IF the full potential of learning spaces is to be realised for learner achievements.

Most authorities are already working on new approaches to learning and teaching and some, for example, have adapted conventional spaces in their schools to help develop a new range of skills for all. This means that as they enter the BSF programme, even if they are years away, staff and learners are well prepared. The most enlightened of these also have student panels helping plan the subject content and how specific themes might best be delivered to maximise the engagement of the learners.

To be specific about Knowsley, educators from literally all over the world, are really fascinated about the new Centres for Learning in Knowsley and they are queuing up to visit. I know several myself from a range of countries.

The potential advantages of many of the new spaces being designed throughout the UK for learners, and staff through greater engagement and achievement in learning, is immense. Everything must be done to ensure that learners and staff are confident in how they maximise the benfits of the new environments - no matter what they look like.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Why don't you pass on these concerns to knowsley lea. Would they listen to you?

Gareth Long said...


I have met with Knowsley and discussed this vital area.. I believe that they have planned a comprehensive CPD programme for most people.

I am not able to discuss this specifically in this forum any further though I am afraid for professional reasons.

Good luck

Gareth Long said...

Thanks for your previous comments which I have not published as it may cause a clash for me professionally.

However, you are again right, CPD is essential and, as you say, it is all about the students in front of teachers who want to learn... except they will not just be in front of you for much longer - the teachers will also on many occasions be working collaboratively with their students learning together!

Thanks for reading the blog - it is read by thousands of people each year from over 90 countries, comments always make it more interesting!

Gareth Long said...

Thanks to those other people who have written and have asked that their comments are not published. Do keep reading. G

Anonymous said...

I visited recently. Beautiful building inside. All positive comments from staff in the building. A worrying comment from someone outside the building later when not under the watchful eye of whoever. Paraphrase - there is a staffroom which is not nearly big enough, but that doesn't matter really because the teachers don't get a minutes peace from the start of the day to the end,so they don't get chance to use it anyway. And this school has only 500 pupils instead of its full complement of 900.

Anonymous said...

What is the toilet situation in this building? I've been told it's children, (boy, girl), and staff, (male, female) all in together.

Gareth Long said...

Thanks for your comment.

The real situation is that the cloakrooms for students are unisex. However staff do NOT share student bathrooms.

Unisex cloakrooms are beginning to appear all over the place in new schools, (here and overseas) including, for example, at the Bristol Brunel Academy in Bristol. Here, by careful design, the 'fourth wall' is missing so there is lots of passive supervision whilst retaining student privacy. Additionally it is almost self policing by students.

In other places there are examples of where they have put glass doors into the hand washing area, again allowing passive supervision.

The result with these designs is a massive reduction in anti social / inappropriate behaviour and a large increase in students willing to use the cloakroom facilities.

Few people who work outside schools are really aware of what an issue school cloakrooms really are. The majority of students (here and abroad) try and avoid having to go to them at all during the school day. To achieve this they don't drink water, get dehydrated and become inefficient learners.

Any student body talking about things to change in their school will almost always say 'toilets' as one of the top three - most commonly that being first!

Other approaches being used now include breaking up the traditional 'industrial toilet block' and splitting them into smaller units all over the school near to learning zones, including inside classrooms. Therefore students do not have to 'go on a journey' to visit what has also been called the 'bullying antechamber'. Other schools in the UK have individual professional office standard cubicles off corridors. Again - things have been transformed.

We have known about this issue with school toilets for decades - we HAVE to do things differently if we want a different result. What I can't understand is why it has taken so long!