From offices ...
I have 25 years’ experience in furniture specification – initially in the commercial sector (where I worked with companies such as American Express, Federal Express, National Savings, Psion, Siemens, and Thomas Cook) and for the last 8 years in education.
... to schools
My experience within the commercial sector, together with my standard design principle (simply aiming to truly understand what you are trying to achieve) meant I didn’t accept the premise that just because something had been done a particular way in schools, it didn’t necessarily make it always right. So, I’m afraid Mr Gove, I don’t concur with your view that parents simply want their children facing the front learning the Kings and Queens of England (I certainly don’t), as you can see from the Northern Ireland Inspired Learning Day project here
Major capital projects
The previous government’s Building Schools for the Future programme certainly presented many opportunities to look at new and innovative ways of delivering teaching and learning – ways that aren’t properly catered for in the standard ‘factory model’ school. I worked on five major capital project bids – for Kent, Southwark, Derbyshire, Essex and Nottinghamshire, and just Derbyshire got away meaning we won four. But whilst the language has changed (teaching can no longer be ‘transformational’) the delivery mechanism changed (we now have a Priority Schools Building Programme) and there’s less cash on the table, I personally believe there remain as many if not more opportunities to make a difference. It’s just we have to be more creative.
Models of learning
Which is why Twickenham Kunskapsskolan Academy was so interesting – taking an old school gymnasium and converting it into a flexible learning studio. Nick Jones, the Academy’s principal said “They go ‘wow’ when they go into the space. It lifts them and they feel good about themselves and about their learning” . And also why I always loved RM’s REAL which I designed with Myf Powell – we took an uninspiring spec-built office building and created spaces that could support teaching and learning in new and innovative ways. Merlin John said “RM have finally shown they’ve got it”.
And the British Council for School Environments agreed too. I accepted the Supplier of the Year Award on behalf of Isis two years running (2010 and 2011)