Monday, 27 February 2012

Learning - the future..

I was pleased to be able to co-chair an invitation only conference last week for UK Learning, the UK branch of cepfi. (Council of Education Facilities Planners International).

Hosted by the Manchester Metropolitan University, delegates included representatives from primary, secondary and special schools, architects, construction companies, Adult Education sector, Directors of Children's Services, an international schools organisation, Chief Executives of education groups, education consultants and also from the FF&E sector.
We were fortunate to get inputs from some fabulous speakers as we explored the issues and opportunities for education in the future whilst operating within context of today. Really interesting stuff. The speakers who challenged and motivated included:
  • Trung Le, the fantastic education architect and thinker from Cannon Design (Chicago) also known as the driving force from the visionary The Third Teacher
  • Professor Stephen Heppell, one of the worlds leading education thinkers (see
  • Ollie Bray, National Adviser for Emerging Technologies in Learning at Education Scotland. Formore on Ollie, click here.
  • Mike Reading, Principal, The Oxford Academy
  • Eddie Murphy, Technical Director, Mott MacDonald
  • Aidan Ridyard, Director, Broadway Malyan Architects
  • Some of the excellent inputs and videos will go on line soon - and be posted on this blog, so please do come back to check them out.

The tiniest .....

Visiting a school recently the whole staff started laughing between themselves as they collected new board pens and erasers. The very diligent Business Manager thought they had found board erasers for a much cheaper price than usual. Only when they arrived did anyone realise why they were so cheap.... they were possibly the smallest ones ever seen. It certainly caused staff to laugh with each other... It was great that no one got cross, irritated or started moaning as may have happened in some places.

The rather embarrassed Business Manager was last seen being very busy...... ordering new ones... Staff have a guessing competition going on as to what size the next offerings will be!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Bangkok Patana School

I have friends with children who are fortunate enough to attend the new Bangkok Patana School in Thailand. I recently watched their promotional video through a link on YouTube - it really is a fantastic facility and students who attend and staff that work there are really fortunate.

Whilst it IS very much promotional, it is interesting to see areas of the school that demonstrate a wide range of furniture, fixtures and equipment. The school obviously thinks it is important to help create good professional learning environments and ensure that students can sit and learn in professional standard furniture. It says so much about the ethos of respect of the school.
We know furniture and environments makes a massive difference to learning, despite some of the nonsense being spouted by politicians currently. As I continue to be involved with numerous school schemes around the UK, I do get depressed when ff&e is the first thing that gets cut as a 'frill' or clients ask for hundreds of identical chairs that could have been around decades ago. Life and expectation is changing, schools should be as well. Sitting students on cheap uncomfortable chairs in identical spaces just cannot be right, nor productive. No wonder they lose concentration, motivation and engagement.

To watch video of this amazing school, click here.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A new beginning....

It was quite depressing walking round an empty semi-derelict primary school last week - seeing odd splashes of colour against collapsing ceilings, girder supports holding up walls, water dripping through ceilings and so on. The fact that we were standing in snow as well did not help.

To make it worse, I was accompanying staff who had worked in that particular building five years earlier. Memories and anecdotes were mentioned as we walked round every part of the building.
The exciting part of this particular project in the London Borough of Southwark, is that I am involved in helping the design process to rebuild and extend this dilapidated building to create a new primary school fit for the Third Millennium. Lots of challenges as the photographs show, as well as the building having listed planning status. Very close neighbours provide additional restrictions.
The design stages have started and there are real challenges in trying to adapt existing Victorian spaces to accept a wide range of teaching pedagogy's and adjacency's.... It's fun, it's thought provoking - but this old building really does deserve to be brought back to life for hundreds of local primary students.
More on this project as it develops over the next eighteen months.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Challenge and aspiration in the Heads of the Valleys

Professor David Egan
I am excited to be leading a team of associates playing a small contribution within the Heads of The Valleys Education Project (HOVEP) in Wales. Recently I attended a stakeholder engagement meeting where people really did work together to help formulate the agenda for future activities.

HOVEP is a unique partnership between the Welsh Government, local authorities, the further and higher education sectors in the Heads of the Valleys area. Its mission is to make the Heads of the Valleys a high skilled region for the 21st century. In Blaenau Gwent, (one of the two areas in HOVEP, the other being Merthyr Tydfil) this is a particularly significant goal. The closure of the steelworks and the loss of a considerable number of jobs has led to the creation of an area facing a significant number of challenges.

HOVEP will focus on every child benefiting from school, and work to ensure that they transition smoothly from primary to secondary sectors of education, with higher percentages of 16-19 students gaining from high level qualifications including English and Maths. Another fundamental aspect is to support higher numbers of 19 years olds progressing into further or higher education, whilst improving skills in the wider adult population.

What I so impressed with is the passion and dedication I have seen to work with the widest range of partners to support, challenge and add value through strengthening and deepening the impact of their current works. In this meeting representatives from almost every phase of education were there, as well as academics, local authority representatives and local employers. It will need this absolute combined commitment and determination to make a difference, including getting over some difficult issues. However, unlike some other areas, they have started and have some very clear plans, aspirations and ideas. This was not a 'sit and receive' session, but rather like the aims of the project, a 'roll your sleeves up and get involved' session where everyone had a role to play in identifying responses to some very searching topics..

I also find it encouraging that there is a significant role for academics in this project, but one with a very real understanding of the specific issues faced in this area. High quality comments giving guidance came from Emeritus Professor David Egan, Senior Policy Advisor to HOVEP and guest Speaker Professor Sir Deian Hopkin.

I just wish them all the best of luck - and am happy to be involved. I am sure I will write more from this project in the coming week and months, so... watch this space.

Curriculum Change - Michael Rosen to Mr Gove

A great open 'letter' appears in The Guardian newspaper this week, from internationally acclaimed author Michael Rosen, to the UK's Secretary of State for Education, the Right Honourable Mr Michael Gove.

It's all about the ever changing school curriculum and the news that the new curriculum guidance which was expected soon, is going to be delayed for a year.

What ever Michael Rosen writes is always engaging and captivating. The same can be said when he is working with students. As a Headteacher, he visited my school and spent the day working with my secondary students and then also with students from feeder primary schools who visited for a half day. It was just the best day with all the students fortunate enough to attend getting so much out of it. The impact was even better with the followup work undertaken by the students and guided by staff achieving the highest standards.

The 'letter' is gentle, but the points included are well made.
To read it in full, please click here: