Tuesday, 1 December 2015

♯Great Schools

I'm really pleased to see the digital version of Great Schools - making the case for good design published by the Architects Journal and sponsored by Hawkins\Brown Architects.

It is now commonly accepted by many that the minimum standard schools that follow the baseline school designs promoted by Mr Gove a few years ago do not provide outstanding learning environments and are simply 'functional spaces'.  Students deserve better than this if we are to encourage and motivate them to a future of life long learning.

We have learnt a great deal since the days of BSF and aspirational school design - this knowledge needs to be further enhanced and developed - not restricted as so many new school designs do currently.  The more conversations regarding new high quality school design that can be restarted - the better.

To access the link to the digital version click here.

North South Divide

Depressingly Ofsted are still reporting a north south divide in the chances of students attending a 'good' school. Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector, notes sixteen local authorities where over 40% of students do not attend a school rated as good or better.  This, possibly inevitably will result in them failing to achieve as good grades as they may be capable of.

Having said that, I know of several schools where staff and students do extremely well, they are outstanding schools in many ways - but student progress does not keep up, often because of lack of aspiration and role models in their social life as opposed to the work that teachers are doing.  In these cases it is simply not fair to simply blame the school. It is so much more complex than that.

To read the Sky News story, click here.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Pre school collects the rain in new school design

Great story on the social media networks recently about the design of a pre school in Japan that is designed so that the central courtyard area between learning spaces can collect rainwater.  This is so students can play in it and learn about the environment at the same time.

It's different, it's innovative and it's fun!  I've not seen this idea before but it is a really neat idea.  It wouldn't work everywhere but I do wish more schools really considered and explored creative ways to enhance the design of learning spaces.

It would also be fascinating to revisit the school after a few years of operation to see how the space is used in reality.  Does the architects dream / vision work in the real time operation of the school?  There is absolutely no reason why it shouldn't!

To read the full story, click here.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Bangkok Exams - are you serious?

I've seen some ridiculous sights in my time, but surely this is one of the most bizarre!  We're not sure if it's true or not - but even thinking about is it strange!

But if you think  about it - it does make you think about the whole purpose and even usefulness of testing people.  What does having all the people writing responses to identical questions really tell us about what they can actually do in the real world?  Maybe that is even more bizarre!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Research and Innovation in Teaching and Learning at Eton

I have recently come across this short film for Eton - possibly one of the most famous schools in the world. It is interesting to watch their approach to teaching, learning, innovation and research at Eton.  Their new Tony Little Centre includes rooms for students to work collaboratively using a wide range of approaches.

Of most interest to me is the way that they have included total flexibility in the way that their rooms have been arranged and focus on research.  Furniture that allows total agility, write on table surfaces, write on walls supported by robust technology.  The rooms are not huge learning barns, they're modest in size.  That does not prevent exploring a range of learning and teaching styles however.

None of this is new and many schools have considered this approach.  The Blue Sky Classroom initiative with every wall being a write on surface was used in schools in Essex year ago. Write on walls are in many schools, primary and secondary. All these innovative approaches can be done in a standard classroom in any school if staff were allowed to be given the time to explore how a new approach would work for them.  It's not wildly expensive.

However, as the political climate has changed and budgets slashed, innovation and flexibility in learning seems to be a dirty word for many, especially those key education decision makers.

Innovative approaches still exist in many schools but this is down to strong leadership rather than a genuine national passion for innovative teaching styles.  This is a pity!

As more and more schools re built  based on Building Bulletin 103 guidance, on minimal budgets, especially for furniture, fittings and equipment, it really is important to remember that there is a different and better way that encourages students to learn in a way that best suits them and the subject being explored.

Equally important is Eton's passionate approach about researching what works best in teaching and learning, building on best practice and publishing their findings.   Too few schools really explore what learning styles work best for the students.  Surely this what we should all be focusing on.

To watch the film, click here.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Google and IPACA

It's great to see the innovative vision for ICT fully integrated into learning still being put into practice at IPACA (Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy). The new very short YouTube video (105 seconds) should continue to reassure people that all goes well.

Based on 1:1 Chrome book platform, this 3-19 all through school is now also introducing tablet technology to support the learning processes.

With a patron like Professor Stephen Heppell, this school was always going to be at the cutting edge - and there are many people from all round the world following how it is developing.  Under the lead of the outstanding Gary Spracklen, Director of Digital Learning and Innovation the school, and more importantly student outcomes are going from strength to strength.  I have taken a number of visitors round this school - they always leave amazed having watched and talked to staff and students.  More importantly, they leave realising that  they should be reassessing their own practice, and not just tinker round the edges.  That just has to be good!

For the short You Tube video on how it is going please click here.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Better design classrooms help attainment

I am delighted that at last the full report from the University of Salford was published at the end of February.

The report 'Clever Classrooms' reinforces that research they published in 2012 about the very positive influences that a well designed classroom can make on pupil engagement with learning and attainment.  I think we all know that, even if some try to ignore it.

This is a comprehensive piece of work that all involved with the design or learning spaces should be reading..  Maybe it may even help persuade some people about the importance of changing the habit of 'what we do is!'  I am still disappointed in schools where I go into classrooms that resemble a mixture of a jumble sale and an explosion in a paper factory.  How can anyone feel comfortable in working and learning in spaces like that?

This is a great piece of work  - I just hope that enough teachers read it and not just interested people like us.

To read the full report click here: