Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A new Think Tank - The Education Foundation

Interesting news in the past few days that Ian Fordham and Ty Goddard are leaving the British Council for School Environments (BCSE) to set up a new independent education think tank - to be known as The Education Foundation.
With Ian as Director and Ty as Associate Director they have some ambitious aims. It aims to work across political parties and country boundaries to help lead, shape and deliver change and reform in the education system, and link evidence about what works with the experiences of schools, colleges and universities working across the sector.
The Education Foundation intends to:
  • collate knowledge about what works nationally and globally to help schools, colleges and higher education institutions
  • start a national debate about education reform, looking for solutions to major policy challenges
  • recognise the potential of school leaders and reformers in every institution across the education system
  • open opportunities for business leaders and reformers in all institutions across the education system
  • scale up projects and programmes that are based on real evidence and measurable impact
  • create an inspiring programme of events, seminars and programmes of work that reach out to a wide audience of leaders from education, business and government
  • invest in education entrepreneurs to take innovative ideas to a wider audience
They also hope to start a national conversation about the development of the Education Foundation for maximum impact.
Laudable aims indeed. This is an interesting development at a time of significant change in the UK education system. Lots of people have tried to create groups to channel and collect evidence and educational thinking but their voices have rarely been really heard. If this Foundation, with Ian as Director, does become the centre for significant discussion and research then it should be a valuable contributor to the national debate.
I wish them real luck.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Engage for Education Blog -Technology for Assessment - why not?

Blog post originally published on the Scottish Government Engage for Education blog this week.

I'm pleased that after the Scottish Government elections, the Engage for Education blog is live and again taking posts from guest bloggers. I am even more delighted that another of my posts has been published - the latest in a series of posts...

Click here to read my latest offering regarding technology and formal exams...

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

New Schools announced...

There is an interesting and positive story in 'Building Magazine' by Sarah Richardson this week, outlining the fact that a hundred new schools are to be constructed through a PFI framework by the new Education Funding Agency..

These should start coming to the market sometime next year with the first schools to be opened in 2014-15. This will be in addition to previously announced funding and focus on some of the BSF schemes cancelled after the last election .

At the end of the article is a reference to more and more construction companies coming up with more standardised designs... I know that more will be announced in the near future.

To read the full story please click here.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

High Expectations - signage

I frequently bang on about appropriate, high quality signage and graphics in schools. It is so important and, when good, can really enhance the entire learning environment.

Visiting a school recently I was really disappointed to wait in a school Reception area and see some rather dull key word graphics scattered around. It was not a particularly welcoming experience and not enhanced by some very disappointing signage. Putting the rather predicable phrase 'High Expectations' directly above the toilets was not the best piece of design ever. As some colleagues with me mentioned, at least they did not put the word 'Achievement' there - they saved that to put above what appeared to be storage and premises offices further along the wall. I'm not sure that that is any better really.

Student Art Work

I just love visiting schools and having the opportunity to see student's work, especially art and design technology ideas...

Recently I visited a fantastic art department with a variety of clay sculptures of faces, I think waiting to be fired. They were fun and displayed a range of talent - I suspect far more than I possess...
The Arts are being squeezed in schools, but they play such an important part of developing the whole learner. They are just as important as the more academic subjects.
I just hope that these fab faces don't end up in someones box in the attic too soon!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Roof top Terraces

Roof Terrace at 'The Cube' civic offices, Corby.
More and more schools are considering the use of roof terraces and raised external learning spaces, as a way of boosting usual space for things like social spaces, external dining facilities and increasing learning opportunities.
Projects I am currently working on include several secondary schools wanting to create an upper floor sixth form external terrace, an external design technology terrace, a Year 7 recreation space as well as an small recreation terrace for SEN students.
The thought of these often fills people with horror especially when they start shouting about health and safety. However, with careful design and a clear organisational model, schools and students are excited about these ideas coming to fruition.
They don't have to be boring or plain spaces. With careful selection of materials, furniture and clever planting, they can be some of the best spaces around. It could easily be argued that not using roof spaces for students is a real wasted opportunity.
How will they work on the schemes currently under development? - watch this space for more details when they have been built.

Friday, 3 June 2011

High Quality Display

Visiting a school recently I was really taken with their display cabinets in the foyer - totally transparent with really good clean lines and just looking so modern. It gave the impression of caring about presentation and helping create a really high standard welcoming reception. I would have liked to have seen some more with students work in as well, but further round the school, the display of student's work was excellent.

It was not, thank goodness, the chunky, horrible, mock teak, great laminate things I see so often in schools that look old fashioned and chip really easily to reveal woodchip or MDF underneath.
This small attention to detail and the image projected is exactly the kind of thing that people, especially students, notice. If we just put 'any old thing' in key public areas it sends out all sorts of messages about standards, attitudes and the importance given to detail.
Some will mention that they are probably expensive - I'm quite sure they may be, but I also heard a significant number of people admiring them when they first saw them - it said something about the school straight away.
And, as someone pointed out - reception display cases may be expensive, but how often do you buy them?