Saturday, June 11, 2005

You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone

A few weeks ago there was a real fuss in the media here about a failing school. Why did this one make such a big impact? It was because it was one of the new City Academies. If you are not from the UK this may not mean a lot to you, but City Academies were set up by the Labour government amidst great controversy.

However, the thing that struck me from the reports of this school was that it doesn't have a playground! (Would that be a schoolyard in the USA?) A school without a playground - it just seemed so bizarre. Who would have thought about building a school, but not a playground. It's like love and marriage, horse and and playground. Yet, here was a school that had cost millions to build and equip, but without a playground.

In Scotland, we don't have City Academies (yet!) but we do have Public Private Partnership (PPP) where a private company will finance and build a school and then lease it to a local authority. I heard a story recently about one of the first PPP primary schools that was built in Scotland. When the school was ready the private company that had financed the building explained what could and could not be done with the building. To the surprise of the teachers, they were told they were not allowed to put anything on the walls! Obviously it hadn't occurred to the private company that teachers would want to stick things on the walls and it hadn't occurred to the education people to say the wanted to do this when writing the specifications for the building!

originally uploaded by jarrodtrainque.
What obvious things should we ask for when specifying a new computer lab? I may return to this again in future posts, but the one I want to start with is space. In a computer lab, children don't just need computers, they need space away from the computers to think, to plan, to reflect. However, when designing computer labs, the main aim often seems to be to cram as many computers as possible into as small a space as possible. I'm fairly sure this is a bad thing.

So, my number one obvious thing we should ask for in a new computer lab is space to work away from the computers. What do you think? Would that be your number one request? What do you think is only recognised as obvious when you don't have it?

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