Saturday, 26 June 2010

UK designed schools in Malawi

Earlier this week as I travelled to the BCSE Industry Awards, I flicked through the Evening Standard - as one does. However this day I spotted a short article tucked right away in the middle pages describing how architects John McAslan + Partners were involved in designing small modular schools for Malawi. I just liked it!

Modular means they can be built quickly and economically for a population often dependent on subsistence farming. Putting these schools in the heart of communities where they are needed opens up education for more of the local population. Being sensible of course, they can also be used in the evening to help educate the local community, farmers in new approaches to agriculture, sharing health education and so on.
This is just a great project and one that I really support. With budget issues everywhere, aspects of modularisation will be being considered by many people here and abroad more and more. It makes sense after all economically. Sharing good practice and experience is what we all should be doing. It is also important, though, that the 'product' is modified to be appropriate for each of the local communities they are intended for - one size does not fit all even in this project.
With increasing globalisation the world is 'getting smaller', we really do have a responsibility to offer to help those who want to increase their learning population.... A fab positive story - it's a pity it was buried so deep in the paper!
To read the whole story by Genevieve Roberts, you can also click here.

Friday, 25 June 2010

BCSE Industry Awards Dinner 2010

The 2010 BCSE Industry Awards dinner took place last night, attended by almost three hundred people. A great event with a number of award winners. As Chair of the two Judging Panels it was really interesting challenging, and at times, really hard to select a winning entry, design or person.

This can only be good for learners, staff and the whole school community. Great learning environments DO make a difference!
Last night celebrated some fabulous and innovative work by numerous design teams, local authorities and school leaders. The standard of entries this year was apparently much higher than last year and this fact alone really does give hope for the future.
I have said before I really do hope that, with government cutbacks, that there really is still a priority given for creating great learning environments. I am certain things will be different, but some investment really must continue - for the sake of the learning commnuity everywhere.
I am pleased to say that I will be looking at some of the winning entries in this blog over the next few weeks / months. Full details about the Industry Award winners will be published soon by BCSE - more details to come on their website.
For a simple list of winners click here
A 'fizzy' reception at the start of the evening kicked if off well..
Host for the evening: Kim Catcheside, former BBC education and social affairs correspondent
Guest Speaker: Steve Chalke MBE, Founder of Oasis Trust
Main sponsors for the evening
and finally, of course, our hosts: Ian Fordham and Ty Goddard of BCSE

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

The Centre for School Design - Learning Spaces fit for today

I was interested to read the latest blog post by Ian Fordham of the Centre for School Design.

He refers to the local authority approach to designing their new education facilities; the Centres for Learning, which are fab in concept and design. Many people love them, some really don't - I really do like them a lot.
What is interesting is that I have met with a variety of local authority representatives recently who have declared that they really truly represent and demonstrate the clarity of an education vision translated into design. To quote one very senior authority person following a tour of numerous schools: "They are the best seen so far".
The whole point of Ian's article is the boldness and the clarity of thinking in striving to create learning environments that are really fit for learners today. After all we are well into the third millenium now - our spaces should reflect that.
Given the current government budget climate I understand that cuts are inevitable.
However, I believe that education really does need more protection than merely "a higher priority" than other government departments. We need all our young people to achieve real success and develop real aspiration for themselves and their learning. The country depends on the education system - there is much still to be done, we all know that. Working in appropriate and exciting learning environments is a key part of developing a real learning community. We have to continue to be bold, innovative and constantly improving.
I have referred to the Centre for School Design before - it really is a fab resource and one to be followed regularly by all those interested in this area.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Hand held learning and Ollie Bray

far right: Ollie Bray talking with colleagues
On a really positive note, I have been meeting and talking to the very talented Ollie Bray recently about a project I am involved with. Many readers will know Ollie from having heard him speak or from reading his blog. Ollie really does KNOW and PRACTICE what, oh so many talk about, regarding technology, using mobile devices in classrooms with students etc. His blog is really one to follow for some really thought provoking thinking.
Although qualified as a headteacher he is currently seconded to work as National Adviser for Learning and Technology Futures at Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) - the government-funded agency in Scotland responsible for curriculum design and innovation.
Ollie is really regarded as one of the leading classroom practitioners in the UK, picking up numerous awards over the years including achieving First Place in the Microsoft European Innovative Teachers Forum for ICT in the Community 2009, the UK Microsoft Innovative Teachers Award for Computer Games Based learning 2009 and being recognised as an Apple UK Distinguished Educator.
I hear many people talk, I hear many pontificate, I hear many that teachers find it hard to relate to - it is really great to be able to work with and discuss future ideas with some of the best people around.
I am really fortunate I know - I meet and work with some really amazing people and teams of people - the best in their field. It is doing these parts of my job which makes me really appreciate how lucky I am to do what I do.

Football, Fathers Day and Trophies....

My daughter's nursery school has been doing some form of project work (hooray!!) combining the World Cup and Father's Day. The result seems to have been all of them creating trophies for Father's Day.

I was really fortunate to be able to collect my daughter from school on Friday - and at the end of school a whole gaggle of three year olds emerged very proudly clutching a variety of 'trophies'. My daughter proudly showed me the one she had made, she told me what it was for and also told me it was a secret until Sunday (as three year olds do!).

I have now been presented with it - she is sooo proud of it - I am rarely lost for words but today....... but keep it we will (for a short while anyway)!


I am fortunate to work in many locations, some fab, some alright and some just not good. Recently I am been in a large number of eight hour long design sessions as we finalised and signed off designs for a new secondary school.

It has been a great and really enjoyable project with lots of learning and ongoing professional debate with a great balance of aspiration and pragmatism together.
We frequently did these meetings is a new local authority office facility... open maybe less than a year, in a meeting room with absolutely no vision in or out of it. It really is a box and nothing more. The research is overwhelming about the need to regularly be able to see different distances, have natural daylight, and good ventilation. This room breaks almost all the rules - it is truly dreadful! Every time I have heard people moaning about our meetings being held in there. The days that meetings were in a different room with light and transparency, I am convinced the feelings were different and the work rate better.
I seriously cannot believe that people would design a room like this that people may have to work in - it is better suited to storage - and nothing else. It certainly would not be allowed in new schools - why should people working in this office have to put up with it?

It's only a shelf....

Visiting a higher education institution last week for the first time, I was invited to wait for a minute or two in the Reception waiting area.... guided to my chair I sat down... and promptly banged my head on a shelf that protruded exactly at head level. My fault - no complaint - or was it?

However, as I went off to my meeting, a different visitor sat and did exactly the same thing - so it wasn't just me. I wondered just how many people have done that since it was installed. It's only a shelf but if it is there, why put chairs right in front of it so people can't get to it or place them underneath it where people can bang their heads. It doesn't even look right. Whether it is a design (surely not) or an operational issue, (probably), it's only a small thing - but it is the detail that makes things really work or irritate people.
Me? - I guess I'll just have to look more carefully.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

One building - two corridors

Attending a meeting last week, I walked down two different corridors in the same building. One had been given some TLC - the other nothing. The first was inviting and quite pleasant - as renovated corridors go, the other was oh so bleak and dismal!

The latter reminded me of some school corridors I still walk dowm - no wonder we still need both refurbished and new school buildings - the effect of bad ones is so demoralising, it's aweful!

We must have modern, fresh and professional business standard learning environments - our students, and staff deserve it if we really are preparing them for the middle of the 21st century!

iPad launch

Outside the Apple shop below: the queue round the corner!
So I just had to do it - I got my iPad on launch day! I'm not as dedicated as those that queued through the night - I went late afternoon. There was still a queue and I thought how short it was, just a few people on Regent Street outside the Apple store - until they told me that the real queue started round the corner!!

However, having said that, I was really impressed at the efficiency of the 'customer' organisation - it was quick, efficient and kept moving! (and those that tried to jump the queue by trying to go through the 'non iPad door' failed in their quest - hooray!). As a business user my iPad was in a bag waiting for me which was even better, but maybe not quite so popular for those waiting behind me - but at least I got out of the way fast.
The atmosphere was one of excitement and enthusiasm - staff were still cheering as each customer went in - although after many hours I must admit they were sounding a little tired...
So the iPad got home - do I like it.... whilst I'm still working out the mstr effective uses for me on my travels - the answer is yes - I love! This machine, or one very like it, really has the potential to transform learning!