Bexley Business Academy

Watching the RIBA Stirling Prize last night, I was of course rooting for Bexley Business Academy. The key architectural feature of this school is the open-sided classrooms. Architect Norman Foster claims he wanted to build a school like this in 1968, but wasn’t allowed to; in 2004 it’s still radical, but clearly an expression of current school management practice, with its emphasis on handing greater responsibility to the students.

Those open-sided classrooms are still designed for about 30 students, though, and I suspect they’ve missed a trick there. As teachers start to get confidence in elearning, they’ll realise that they don’t need to supervise students who are working at computers any more. Thus liberated, teachers will be able to spend their time with much smaller groups of students; perhaps as small as 15 (arithmetic; suppose half the curriculum is taught via computer; you might divide your class into two subgroups. You work with one subgroup and send the other to the resource centre).

I do hope Bexley Business Academy’s construction is flexible enough to be recast to create more, smaller spaces in a few years.


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