Schools of the Future: don’t forget your jetpack

What is it about this “of the future” tag? Every time you see it you know someone’s heading for a prattfall. It conjures in my mind images of the Jetsons, Spandex suits and the Millenium Dome. The problem is that predictions are generally based on extrapolating a single trend, and assuming that everything else will stay the same. The Jetsons are a classic case in point: a stereotypical 1950’s nuclear family with 1950’s jobs and 1950’s attitudes – who just happen to have a circular house and a car that can fly.

Closer to home, perhaps, the British Library (of the future), conceived and funded in an age when you went to the library – but born into an age when the library came to you; or rather to your browser. That it would prove to be a white elephant could have been predicted – probably was – by anyone who knew Moore’s Law. But the lure of a bigger, brighter ‘more modern’ version of what we already had proved too great. I walk past it regularly, and often wonder if there’s anybody still inside.

Now the DfES is announcing Schools of the Future replete with, you guessed it, giant glass domes. No. Sorry. Buildings of the future, perhaps, but housing schools of the past.

In none of the proposals I’ve seen has anybody questioned whether, in an age of universal connectivity and computing hardware so cheap it comes with the cornflakes, it will still be appropriate to

  • deem ‘learning’ only to happen within one building?
  • force children of 11 to commute outside their local area?
  • keep them in groups of approximately 30?
  • insist that each group is homogenous by age?
  • tie up the bulk of teachers’ time physically supervising and administrating those groups?
  • insist that every child attends on the same days and at the same time?

Perhaps formal education will still be like that in 30 years, but if William Hill would take my bet, I’d give even money that the educational establishment will have reversed its view, on at least one of those questions, within 5 years.


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