Comment - This teaching heaven must pave the way for all to follow

Darren Evans

Walking into these new schools is like a breath of fresh air. The bright airy classrooms are obviously a great source of inspiration for teachers and pupils alike. But it also must be remembered that many schools in Wales remain in a dire and dilapidated state, and are likely to remain so for years.

As school budgets become increasingly stretched, school maintenance will inevitably fall victim. The school football pitch may not be quite as trim next year; flower beds not as colourful; the walls may go without a lick of paint.

All the research concludes that teachers perform better and pupils learn with more gusto in schools that are well maintained and modern.

We have featured two schools today where gloomy classrooms with their ancient blackboards and wheezing radiators have been replaced with bright and airy learning spaces with interactive whiteboards and underfloor heating.

Teachers can use rooms that are designed for the demands of education today, instead of having to make do with unsuitable, often Victorian, classroom layouts.

They must be in heaven.

But how many primary schools have to start the foundation phase without such luxuries, and have had to improvise to meet the demands of the play-led curriculum, particularly the outdoor learning aspect, a lynchpin of the learning through play revolution in Wales?

The possibilities afforded by new technology are exciting, and no one can begrudge these teachers the great new learning environments that must make going to work each day that bit more pleasurable.

But for other teachers there will still be the horrors of leaky roofs, dodgy heating systems and rotten windows lurking in the back of their minds.

And there will be a twinge of envy.

Every teacher and pupil deserves a school fit for purpose, but some have a long time to wait. Is it time to follow Scotland and allow private finance initiatives to pave the way to a brighter future for schools in the Welsh nation?

Our fellow Celts appear to have embraced the initiatives, although the schemes have been heavily criticised. Is it time to rethink how private funding can be sucked into the system in Wales to ensure all pupils have the learning havens they deserve? It seems public money alone will not be enough as local authorities continue to fall on hard times.

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Darren Evans

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