Monday, February 25, 2008

Guardian BSF comment piece

The Guardian's Building Schools for the Future supplement is out today, but (bizarrely) isn't published online. No, really... At short notice I was asked to contibute a 500 word article from the point of view of someone outside of BSF - in Buckinghamshire we have one pilot school, but we're not part of the early waves, so it's thinking about what BSF might mean for those of us who aren't yet up to our necks in it.
Here's the article in kind of electronic form - I photographed the pages, combined the JPEGs into a PDF and uploaded it to Issuu so you can nicely turn the pages. The original text of the article is underneath...

Use the arrows to turn the pages...or click to zoom in.
Shiny buildings overflowing with technology? Check. Children whose open mouths could be used for the middle letter of the “Wow!” on their tongues? Check. A write up in the education media? Check. However, away from the cameras and invited guests at the opening of a rebuilt school lurk tales of PFI tensions, odd designs and daunting contracts stuffed full of three letter acronyms.
When seemingly everything associated with a school – buildings, ethos, infrastructure, procedures – gets dug up and replanted it can be tempting to see Building Schools for the Future (BSF) as a Year Zero moment, one where existing practice is cast aside and a brave new world awaits. Couple this with a few minutes browsing the web site of any BSF provider and you might come to the conclusion that the magic dust of technology coats these new buildings with an innate sense of innovation and change – a Field of Dreams-esque “if you build it, they will learn...” approach - which will excite some and terrify others.
Current work with learning platforms shows that a programme like this won’t automagically change an organisation’s culture – instead careful planning, preparation and wide involvement of stakeholders is critical. If BSF is about the transformation of learning then it’s important that some of those things which can help to make transformation happen are established beforehand. Does a school have existing procedures for the ways in which it deals with technology and other new aspects emphasised by BSF – for example by having analysis of and reporting on ICT issues as a standing item on SLT agendas? Such things can smooth the process as the school moves into BSF and enable it to manage its service providers more effectively – otherwise a school with no existing practice might be steered into taking up processes and systems it neither understands nor believes in, and which may have been designed for another school.
A concern for many Local Authorities is the existing investment and infrastructure which has been put in place, for example by the Learning Platforms (LPs) programme. Again, schools or LAs with little idea about how they see such tools being used to transform the curriculum, risk being offered solutions which may not be ideal for them and represent someone else’s view of learning. One way around this would be to specify that any existing learning platform services are outside the remit of the BSF project – however this will require reliance on the service, whether it’s a broadband service, email or learning platform and may involve the LA or RBC agreeing to cover the risk by ensuring that broadband or the LP is always available.
BSF will affect every school in the country in some way, but to ensure that it meets the needs of schools it’s critical that those in positions of influence try to extract some of the common threads from the programmes currently washing over them – innovation across a new curriculum, changing culture in schools, working collaboratively, the effective use of appropriate technology to transform learning – and build them in to their existing practice as early as possible. This way, we might Build a Future for Schools.

1 comment:

  1. I did a piece in a 'sponsored' supplement, too, last month and it wasn't published online. My guess is something advertisingy. Shame. It was a great piece. (Yours, I mean ;-)