Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Indoor gardens

Visiting Leigh Technology Academy recently I really loved the two indoor 'garden' areas, each between two sets of Colleges.

The academy is designed and operates strictly along the 'schools within schools' model. There are four colleges, each with their own Principal who operate and share one enclosed campus. Students and staff stay almost exclusively within their dedicated college areas apart from sharing specialist areas such as sports, technology etc.

Those that know me are aware that I am a great fan of this model, having helped lead the change at Ministry level of one school into four small schools in the Cayman Islands. The benefits of this change were immediate and overwhelmingly positive in many ways.

At Leigh Technology College, two colleges share one central space complete with indoor garden and social areas. This is replicated for the other two colleges. Very significantly, at the centre of each 'garden' is a conference table and chairs where all senior management meetings take place. No locked away in little offices - but done at the very heart of the Academy with total transparency to all, students and staff alike. In fact each college has learning balconies (or plazas) overlooking them. These plazas have a variety of rooms off them for other types of learning. The spaces were designed for learning and it shows. A great ethos with a real feeling of engagement and openness. (Architects again were BDP)

The planting certainly softened the environment and many people were convinced that the air quality was much better - probably an obvious statement but something we can learn from.

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