Saturday, 29 October 2011

Stephen Heppell talks...

Regular readers will know that I am a friend and colleague of Professor Stephen Heppell. We have done a number of projects together. There are many videos around of him talking, including on YouTube. However, the latest one, recorded in the past few days in New Zealand, is worth watching.
In this ULearn11 EDtalk Stephen explains why he believes that the 'structures and strictures of education will be swept aside by the engagement, seduction, delight, passion and astonishment of a new learning world'. Stephen shares his conviction that if we want to know what education will look like in the future, we only need to look at what is happening in the online world now.
As ever he makes great deal of sense, but will the key policy makers agree?
To watch the video click here.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Who Owns Community Noticeboards?

Community noticeboards - who 'owns' them?
More and more schools are keen to be central parts of the community, and several schemes I have worked on have talked about having community noticeboards.
Community noticeboards are great and many people love reading the things on them. BUT they only work if someone takes ongoing responsibility for them. If no one does they can be truly dreadful things, such as the one above. The problem is that poorly maintained noticeboards create problems. I am a true believer that graffiti breeds graffiti, equally creating really low expectations encourages low expectations. These noticeboards are often the first impression of any institution. What does they tell you about it?
Well maintained community notice boards can really work well in schools but only if part of a co-ordinated strategy. If schools can't be bothered to really look after them then it is better not to have them at all than just celebrate a public display of low expectations!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Puppet fun

I've been working a lot with a fab Special Needs school recently as we plan their new building. Whilst moving around the school this week I came across some just fabulous puppets created by the students, many of whom have really complex needs.

The collaboration by subject staff and students have produced really colourful puppets displaying a good range of skills. Quite rightly they are being displayed to celebrate the really good students work.
They are some of the best puppets made by students I have seen for ages. I hope you like them.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Flexible Walls

A depressing sight spotted in a school.... a wonderful flexible wall that clearly is not used. Has it ever been? Not only is furniture that looks pretty permanent piled up against it, but the display is even posted over the joins. It made me wonder if it had ever been used since installation.

The whole point about these is flexibility, and staff being able to create a range of spaces as and when they need them, for team teaching, integrated lessons and so on. In many schools there are many staff who would welcome the opportunity to use this design feature.
As a Head I banned staff from blocking movable walls and ensured that staff who were likely to use them were timetabled for those rooms. This does not always happen. One Headteacher in another school told me that he had a Head of Department wanted to use a classroom for himself that happened to contain a movable wall, but told him that he would not be touching it. What makes this story sad is that there were other staff in the same department that wanted to have movable walls between rooms to work in a more collegiate collaborative way some of the time. They also wanted to work in more traditional ways at times. That's the whole point of the movable design!! Question, who was running this school and where was the strong leadership?
Good quality, acoustic, flexible walls are expensive and so need to be designed in carefully. It is a crying shame and a real wasted opportunity when enthusiastic staff are discouraged from being able to use them creatively.

Pink Portaloo

Attending a construction site recently in the north of England, one item caused considerable comment from many of those attending, including architects, project managers and many more. It was the gleaming brand new site mobile toilet standing all alone in splendid isolation.

All agreed that they had seen blue, green, brown and black ones, but no one could remember ever having seen a bright pink one before. Many seemed to mutter about "pink", "in Lancashire", "on a building site"!
They are not things of great beauty, we all know that, but whether we really want to make a toilet stand out just as much as this one did is another question?

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Futures Learning Trust

I was delighted to be able to attend the launch of the 'Futures Learning Trust' at Burnley Football Club recently.

The 'Futures Learning Trust' is a collaboration between local schools, John Moore's University, The Life Channel and been 'adopted' as the key community project by Burnley Football Club. The real focus is young people and seizing opportunities for innovation, change and development through challenge, communication and collaborative working. On the basis that everyone can always do better, the priority for the partnership of local businesses, higher education and schools is to take take students, teachers and school leaders to "the next level".
Having never visited Burnley before, I was struck by the feeling of community around these schools and a determination to work together and not in competition against each other, for the sake of the students. This project is being driven by some outstanding school leaders, and having seen their passion and commitment, this is a project to watch in the future. Equally important is the priority given to student involvement - this is a project with their leadership and engagement being really valued and not one being 'done to them'. I am sure that some of the projects that they undertake will be 'groundbreaking'! I very much hope to be involved in some way in the future!

A real highlight of the event was a fab performance by children from the Padiham St Leonard's Primary School at half time. Their performance, a highly edited version of their school show, lasted just seven minutes, but the energy and passion they showed was great. The 'stage', the whole pitch was a daunting venue in front of 13,500 thousand spectators. Their narrator certainly outshone the professional announcer during the match where Burnley thrashed Nottingham Forest 5:1! The standing ovation they got from the crowd at the end really did reflect a fantastic whole community feeling, to an extent I have rarely seen.
For a local media report of their performance click here