Ten years on, I admit I was wrong about Building Schools of the Future

BSF: Glass domes and Spandex suits

Remember Building Schools of the Future? It was a flagship programme by the then Labour government to put old wine into new flasks whilst carefully avoiding doing anything that might actually improve the quality of teaching and learning in English schools. I thought it was a gross misappropriation of resources, and said so exactly 10 years ago today.

About that, I was absolutely right. It turned out that we didn’t have the funds anyway, and the whole thing imploded.

Where I was wrong was my contention that the world would have changed sufficiently in 5 years (let alone 10!) that the premise on which these buildings were being constructed would be widely acknowledged as redundant. Specifically I said

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?

To my horror and amazement, not one of these attributes has become any less a part of the accepted wisdom on what formal education is about. The closest we have got to real change is some very (very) limited experimentation with ‘flipped classrooms’.

I continue to dream of an education system that harnesses the new technologies in the service of developing young minds to their full potential, but I am forced to admit that the revolution that is very unlikely to start in England.

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