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Welcome to the August edition of the Education Buildings Journal Newsletter. We pride ourselves on providing the education sector with a forum to communicate and collaborate, and hope that through this regular newsletter you will enjoy the combination of the latest news and views from educational professionals.
Worldwide Workplaces are Evolving so why aren’t Learning Spaces?
Dr Philip Gardner, Partnership Director – Space Zero
At Education Buildings Wales, we recently shared some thoughts examining the progression of the Activity Based Working environment in comparison to the mainstream school environment of children being taught in boxes of loose furniture.
It has now been proven that the design of space can contribute 16% to the overall yearly performance of children [Ref: Professor Peter Barrett et al ‘Clever classrooms’ report]. With this in mind shouldn’t we be investigating the relationship between pedagogy, ergonomics, the design of space, stimulation, personalisation and naturalness for all of our school year groups?
The design of spaces has many layers of consideration: the functional requirements of operating theatres, workshops and science labs; strategic requirements such as retail design as a brand experience and product presentation; aesthetic considerations of course, and experiential design. And by experiential design, we mean how an environment is experienced over time by the visitor and by their sensors of sound, sight, touch, taste and smell.
Let’s briefly examine how the adult world has evolved. The 18th century workhouse became our 19th century places of work. Rows of machines turned into rows of desks. This format, with an individual worker at an individual station, surprisingly persisted right into the 21st century. In fact, it was only about 10 years ago that Activity Based Working was recognised and began to be adopted by global corporations.
As Professor Franklin Becker of Cornell University wrote ‘Studies have revealed that a limited range of locations (notably the desk and meeting room) to perform work activities, actually inhibits social interaction and knowledge sharing. There should be a range of places for people to choose where they can conduct their chosen activity.’
We believe that these principles should be applied to the classroom. We understand there is a fundamental connection between the curriculum, teaching methodologies and the environment in which it occurs. It is in countries where the national curriculum forces teachers to operate with a group of approximately 30 children in a single space where we should be focussing our attention. We should provide children with the freedom to go to spaces that are designed specifically as tools for concentration, collaboration, socialising and inspiration.
We are progressing with the development of prototype designs to test our hypotheses because we believe this could genuinely improve learning outcomes. We also know for instance, that getting children moving around helps with learning and concentration. We believe that providing a choice of areas or a ‘typology of ergonomics’ will help the more introverted and extraverted children. We also believe these environments could also assist in terms of SEND. We are convinced that children would simply enjoy being there too!
How do we measure the benefits of this? Post Occupancy Evaluation surveys of workplace evolution show a big improvement and this has provided corporations with enough evidence to be implementing it worldwide. We believe this can translate to the classroom. It needs to be proven and we most definitely want to try.
Creating New Teaching Spaces in a 1980’s Building.
Ian Cadwell, Facilities Advisor, King’s College London
There are many who think the Macadam Building on King’s College London’s Strand Campus is ugly and should be torn down. In this era of sustainability, however, it is structurally sound and the long term plan is to renew its services infrastructure and cladding. So what should we do with it in the short term?
The university has relocated key activities including the Students’ Union, Careers Service and Health Centre across to the newly refurbished Bush House. This provided the opportunity to strip out the partitions in the Macadam Building, revealing the deep floor plates and subsequent possibilities that come with such a flexible building. It may be ugly on the outside, but it has great potential on the inside.
Given the continuing growth in student numbers on the Strand Campus, the move to introduce more collaborative and flexible forms of teaching (and the lack of such spaces to carry this out in) the building is being transformed economically. In a series of phases we are looking towards modern learning and teaching spaces, including space for engineering in the lower floors with space in which to be experimental. We hope to feed this transition into other future developments.
A key issue for us, as with others, is what will teaching look like in the future? Will it embrace more technology? If so, which technology? Critically, the journey has to be led by the academic staff. How ready are they to embrace new forms of teaching and think into the future? How will this link with the traditional methods of teaching? The lecture theatre is not dead – it is just changing. The question is how the new and different forms of teaching will compliment this.
We know for example that the old nightclub in the Macadam Building has the flexibility to be a formal lecture theatre, and then be rearranged in other different ways to allow break out sessions, project work and other activities. We need to keep the best of the old but anticipate the new and this is what these new spaces will aim to explore.
Your Sustainable Community Needs You
Hershil Patel, DfE
First there was Blue Planet, then Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion and now the Climate Emergency. The media coverage around sustainability is pushing us all in the right direction. Let’s reduce carbon and waste and increase wellbeing and biodiversity.
With schools being the centre of many communities, they have an unscripted function to be the sustainable assets of the communities we live in. It changes the way we work and play as well as the behaviour that applies to our day-to-day lives.
With over 22,000 schools compromising of 63,000 buildings, we all have a role to play in reducing greenhouse gases and creating greener, more sustainable schools. So where do we start? Let’s start with people; teachers, students and parents can make the greatest change of all. Our approach and behaviour towards sustainability will create the biggest reformation.
Case Study 1:
At a primary school, the dedicated energy team made up of year 3 to 6 pupils, carried out a wide range of activities resulting in a 30% reduction in heating consumption saving the school £250 per year. The activities included:
- reading gas and electricity meters on a weekly basis
- checking the temperature in rooms and radiator settings
- ensuring lights are turned off and checking doors during lunch/assembly
- designing and installing ‘Switch off’ signs around the school
- daily monitoring of the local weather for reconciling with highs and lows in energy consumption
- developing a ‘Travel Plan’ to encourage pupils to walk or cycle to school to help decrease congestion/pollution and improve the fitness of pupils and parents
Case Study 2:
Primary school pupils observed that school meals were being delivered at least half an hour before the lunch break and being kept warm by an electric food warmer. The solution was to change the time of the lunch break to reduce the warming time to just 10 minutes. This saved energy and the food tastes better too!
Case Study 3:
With a new kitchen installation at an infant school, the staff noticed a doubling of their energy consumption.
To identify the source of the problem, the school installed a sub-meter for the kitchen, and on the basis of the readings, persuaded the catering contractor to install more efficient models and turn off the fly-killer outside of school hours. Early indications are that the kitchen’s electricity consumption has dropped by around a third as a result, while overall electricity consumption by the whole school has dropped by 17% in the last year, saving around £1,000 annually.
Other than addressing the impacts of climate change, the benefits are wide-ranging. Reduced operating costs, better air quality, and delivering change beyond the curriculum are all key rewards.
This year, the Department for Education are proud to announce “The DfE Sustainability Award” at Education Estates 2019. There are some fantastic examples of policies and practices which schools have developed and implemented. The DfE are keen to hear about these and share them with the education community – let’s maintain the momentum and continue to encourage the growth towards a sustainable environment.
A ‘Lesson’ on PPP within the Education Sector
Sara Humber, 21st Century Schools and Colleges MIM Programme Director, Welsh Government
“I’m never going to be a teacher!” I yelled, aged five. This outburst was aimed at my Mum and Dad (a teacher and Head teacher respectively) Whatever the reason for such an emotional eruption is unknown but it is clear to see that I realised at a young age what a challenging vocation it is. It is perhaps therefore a little ironic that my somewhat unconventional career path led me from a music degree to becoming an opera singer (including being a singing and flute teacher to supplement my income) before finally migrating to commercial law which has seen me work almost exclusively on PPP school building programmes for the past 10 years.
I left private practice in 2009, to join Partnerships for Schools at the boom of the Building Schools for the Future programme … and then the bust happened. I then became part of a small team in the Education Funding Agency that structured the Private Finance element of the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP). Following that, I conducted the procurement (on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education) of a £110 million PSBP 12 school batch in the North West of England continuing to run it through construction and into operations. Since January 2018 I have been working for Welsh Government as the Programme Director for the Mutual Investment Model (MIM) element of the 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme responsible for delivering the capital equivalent of £500 million of additional investment in education facilities in Wales. The reason it is additional is because it is a PPP model that is “off government debt” for budgeting purposes.
We, on behalf of the Welsh Government, have recently issued a contract notice for a Private Sector Delivery Partner that once appointed, will form a joint venture company with Welsh Government called the Welsh Education Partnership Company (“WEPCo”). WEPCo will provide Partnering Services to individual Local Authorities (LAs) and Further Education Institutions (FEIs) to allow them to develop up their individual MIM Projects supported by the MIM Education Programme Team. It is an exciting time for innovation in Wales.
Having worked on PPP Projects for 17 years, I think that despite the assertions of my 5 year old self, I would actually like to teach. I want to do some myth busting in my classroom against the negative onslaught on schools PPP. Granted, some of the early contracts lacked sufficient detail on transparency and flexibility and the inclusion of soft services led to problems with unfettered use of facilities. Things have moved on significantly since then and standard form contracts have been honed. What is never reported is the fact that PPP facilities are well maintained for 25 years to maximise their design life. The assets are life-cycled. If a service is not provided or the facility is unusable, the public sector gets compensated. If the building or FM contractor goes bust, the Project Company has to sort it out with the funder. If we want to use this model well, we need to know how, within the public sector, we can be a credible counterparty to the private sector.
Although not intended to replace capital investment in public buildings, when managed well, the PPP model offers value and certainty and ensures that buildings are maintained to a high standard over an extended period. No one will deny that the public sector is poor at maintaining public buildings and that capital is wasted in extraordinary amounts (patching and mending or rebuilding facilities sometimes way in advance of their projected design life) because the buildings are simply not looked after properly . Politics is short-term and I doubt policies relating to long term maintenance will win votes. Oh so now it’s turned into a politics lesson? I wouldn’t dare.
Headteachers Aim to Step Away from Identikit Schools
Gareth Long, Director of the-learning-crowd
“To be honest we are trying to keep headteachers away from the design process of their new schools” is a phrase we heard recently. As a former Head myself, this was a totally depressing thing to hear. I expected to be very involved in any new build or refurbishment project in my schools.
Many heads, senior staff and teachers spend considerable time in developing approaches to learning that will stimulate and inspire their students and prepare them for the world of work. They also increasingly recognise that high quality learning spaces can contribute significantly to how they deliver educational outcomes.
As students become more independent and sophisticated learners with instant access to information, many schools are looking for learning environments that match their pedagogical approaches. They want to provide spaces that allow collaboration, flexible approaches to teaching and learning, research, idea development, presentation and much more. Our work with students, school staff and parents shows there is a growing expectation that schools will provide these opportunities.
There is still a place for the traditional classroom, not least because developments in flexible furniture, education technology and environmental standards have made these spaces more comfortable and agile. However, many schools are also working to develop spaces that support a range of teaching styles and are flexible enough to accommodate changes in pedagogy, leadership and organisation in the future.
With the advent of Academies, schools are increasingly differentiating themselves from each other through their vision, ethos and specialisms. Parents think carefully about the school that will meet the needs or interests of their children. In direct contrast to this there seems to be a determination to create a ‘sameness’ in school design.
With the existence of minimum space standards designed to provide at best functional spaces, we are in danger of missing many of the elements that make a school exciting and special. We may even be making them worse. We know that mass movement in circulation spaces that are too narrow can result in poor behaviour, delayed arrival to lessons and an increase in missed learning time. We know that designing learning spaces to minimum standards reduces flexibility for a wide range of activities making timetabling difficult and leaving teachers frustrated.
We need to recognise that schools are not all the same. They cater for children with a wide range of needs, they have specific strengths and areas of expertise, and they do want to be able to demonstrate their ‘specialness’ to parents and their community. Many headteachers do not want their school to look exactly like the one down the road. The perceived danger of allowing headteachers into the design process is that their ambition and aspiration will not be deliverable within tight budgets. Our experience is that delivering what a school needs does not cost more money, but it does require good preparation, buy-in from the school community and creativity from the designers.
The move to standardisation is, far too often, resulting in multiple identikit schools that are functional at best. If we value headteachers as experts surely we should be bringing their knowledge into the process and supporting their vision. If we are asking young people to work hard and aim high, surely we should be matching their ambition in how we design and deliver their schools.
Stand and Deliver: Are Developers Ruining our Cities through Exploitation of the System, or are they the True Bastions of Regeneration Delivering the Needs of our Communities?
Paul Turpin, Architect – Schools Lead (London & South East), IBI Group
Over the last few years we have seen a significant change in the way in which major schemes are developed in our towns and cities. With limited land available, and a more restrictive fiscal approach adopted by central government (which has been passed down to local government) the impact on their ability to deliver vital services has been seen.
“London needs to build 66,000 new homes a year. But with the population projected to grow by 70,000 a year up to 10.5 million by 2041, London also needs schools, shops, amenities and space for tens of thousands of new jobs.” Susan Emmett from the Policy Exchange, May 2018.
A rethink in the way that local government delivers its services has contributed to the adoption of innovative solutions on both design and capacity. This has created many new homes and developed an infrastructure, including education and healthcare facilities in areas where there is real need. However – it has not been perfect.
The S106 system – there to deliver essential infrastructure alongside major planning schemes – has created accusations that developers can hold local authorities to ransom. In particular, the pre-planning approach to negotiation deemed as S106 avoidance in order to maximise developer profit has played a role. The delivery of S106 infrastructure projects on site is sometimes poor (due to inadequate oversight or lack of contractual positioning at the planning stage) and sometimes this is exacerbated when developments are sold post-planning.
The call for sites across the country was there to expedite the release of land and enable the much needed homes to be built. Landowners (many of these with an agricultural use on green belt) have been quids-in once their land values are realised with consented development, but they have often bypassed communities and ignored local voices which has only exacerbated cynicism of the system.
There is much debate on whether the public sector or the private sector should take ownership of major schemes in order to provide true value for communities. Stockholm is a wonderful example of where the public system takes charge of this and it has created a happy city, with good infrastructure that positions itself well as a low carbon city. However, this public sector leaning does limit the ability to attract big businesses from the private sector which has impacted its corporate growth.
Sir Oliver Letwin in his ‘Independent review of build out’ has suggested several ideas for major development schemes. These include the focus towards local governments establishing ‘local development companies’. By bringing in private capital through a ‘non-recourse special purpose vehicle’ and agreeing (voluntarily with the landowner) a reduced open market residual value or CPO, the push to reinvest the difference to reduce the cost of “affordable” homes could be realised.
Whoever leads on major developments has a responsibility to improve people’s lives. This includes a focussed approach to placemaking, improving the environment for future generations, improving mental health, sport and wellbeing, and the physical environment including air and noise.
We do need to evolve a different approach to major development, to assist local authorities and ensure multi-government agencies deliver. We need to reintroduce trust in our communities through honesty, explaining what we are doing and why. Let’s look deeper at what a development actually does for its community – not what it looks like. It is about joining the dots and it is about us – the people. To achieve this, we need both the public and private sector in collaboration.
Learning as Placemaking
Diarmaid Lawlor, Director of Place, Architecture and Design Scotland
A key finding of the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness report 2018 is to make growth more inclusive. This includes proposals for skilling and reskilling, dealing with job displacement, inequality and the needs of modern living. Co-operation sits at the heart of realising these ambitions. Places shape the way these collaborations form around locational benefits. Placemaking is about giving shape to joining up advantages for more inclusive growth.
And this works at region, settlement and local levels. The Øresund Region of Sweden/Denmark is a technology hub with innovation potential, world-class scientific infrastructure and a good environment for start-ups. Policy decisions have prioritised the connecting up of knowledge, enterprise and transport infrastructure across the region. Small places, big places and collections of places in the Øresund all contribute to making this place a world class hub with local benefits. And learning is central at all scales.
This idea of connectivity sits at the heart of two major policy initiatives in Scotland. First, the Place Principle aims to change public service delivery culture so that there is a presumption in favour of place-based approaches which have communities at their heart. Second, the Learning Estates Strategy seeks to join up learner experiences connecting people, places and learning. Placemaking is a key tool in realising the ambitions of a more connected Scotland. Learning and investment in the estate provide a focus for more and better placemaking which extend benefits beyond the red line of individual developments. And placemaking for learning provides the scope to make a real difference to the inclusive growth agenda, low carbon and the changing demographic context of Scottish communities.
The ambition of the Learning Estates Strategy seeks to directly address the skills and inclusion agendas set out by the World Economic Forum. Participation and collaboration are the fundamental pillars to agree what outcomes for each place, connected how. These ambition can then be supported by three levels of placemaking thinking:
(a) Placement: The location of where learning happens and how this location supports local participation, industry collaboration, local economic benefits and sustainability benefits like reduced needs for travel and local regeneration
(b) Plans: using investment in learning to invite a holistic approach to joining up services, investment in industry and jobs, amenities, transport and housing to create learning neighbourhoods, towns and districts within which buildings and spaces for learning sit
(c) Partnerships: Leveraging existing assets and partnerships for learning, from extended use agreements in landscapes for early years to industrial partnerships sharing specialised spaces for innovation
At its core, placemaking is about connecting opportunities to create locations that work, where people choose to be. Design is the vehicle to make placemaking work.
A&DS support placemaking for learning through our design advice work and collaboration with partners. Our aim is to help realise the ambitions of inclusive growth by design. We are here to help and you can find out more about what we offer here: https://www.ads.org.uk/schools-design-assessment-service-information-sheet/