Grand designs to start a revolution

10th December 2004 at 00:00
here is something stimulating and productive about gatherings of experts which cross professional boundaries (page 5). If the renewed interest in school design and building has done nothing else, it has brought together the worlds of education, design, architecture, procurement, construction and facilities management. We have to acknowledge that this is a remarkable development which has revived our thinking about the relationship between pupils' learning and the environment in which they are taught. This is a somewhat bigger picture than that of the relationship between public and private funding in revitalising the school estate.

Nonetheless, even that debate shows signs of maturing. We know there have been problems with Glasgow's PPP project, a massive programme which would have been astonishing if it had gone without a hitch. But Glasgow has done the rest of Scotland a service. It was the guinea pig and lessons are being learned, not least in the city itself which would probably not now opt for so many rebuilding projects, since new builds are easier to manage. Nobody should be in any doubt that, as one of the conference participants put it, "the early decisions were not necessarily the best decisions". As Clackmannanshire and East Renfrewshire have now shown, wise counsel and wise councils emphasise the importance of innovative design, effective consultation and future learning needs in rebuilding schools - simple but also revolutionary. Pupils can only benefit.

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