Monday, 1 October 2012

Coalition plans warehousing for children

Wates' 'repeatable school' template

We may soon be seeing these schools throughout the country if the Coalition gets its way and orders cut-price identical  new schools across the country with smaller classrooms, corridors and halls.

This looks like warehousing or factory farming for children and in the way ideologically reflects the conveyor belt nature of the examination system with its quotas and targets.

Capital Ciry Academy (Norman Foster)
Cleverly the Coalition in its justification takes a populist swipe at some of the grandiose school projects built under Labour, lampoons atriums, denigrates architects and opines that it is good teaching that makes good schools - not buildings.

The Victorians valued education and children more, just look at some of the education castles such as Kensal Rise Primary or St Joseph's in Harlesden, bold statements of the centrality of education to the community, and built to last from hard as iron industrial brick. They are still with us, if the haven't been converted into luxury flats such as those on Dudden Hill, whilethe post-war schools are crumbling.  It was ironic that the recent Brent Education Debate was held at Copland High School with the building's poor physical state there for all to see.

 How long will these 'Ikea' schools last?

Less space in schools, small halls, smaller playgrounds because of school expansion and sold-off playing fields - space is now a political issue.  Smaller school halls will mean that the whole school can no longer meet as a community affecting the social cohesion of the school.  The school won't all be able to meet together following major events such as the death of a pupil or to celebrate the school's achievements.   There won't be space for all the parents to attend a concert or other school performance. Opportunities to let out the space for community events will be reduced because of the hall's low capacity.

I was recently approached by someone who wanted to speak to the pupils at a local school about the scout movement, wanting to recruit more children to the local pack. She asked to come and talk at an assembly. I had to let her know that because of the large number of children and small school hall, she would have to speak to 6 separate assemblies!

Schools with large numbers of pupils but small halls, alongside the requirement for a daily act of worship, mean that mornings are tied up with assemblies (a timetabling nightmare) and the hall is not available for PE, music, drama etc. Some are even more restricted because they are also used as dining rooms.

Perhaps most importantly, good school building may not create good teaching, but they do convey to the children how much society values them.  What message is the Coalition sending to the next generation?

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