Let's build 21st-century thinking too

13th June 2008 at 01:00
Scottish schools seem to be undergoing a renaissance: with the financial aid of the famed PPP, new schools are being built all over the country
Scottish schools seem to be undergoing a renaissance: with the financial aid of the famed PPP, new schools are being built all over the country.

Anyone who has worked in a decrepit, draughty building will rejoice. The pong of old wooden floors in the gym, the stench of the boys' changing rooms, the ingrained grubby corners where the cleaner's filthy mop never quite reached will be gone forever.

And in their place will be buildings fit for the 21st century. They will have whiteboards and loads of power points for computers. But they will also still have desks, and crowded corridors and not quite enough space.

Probably the real benefit of moving to a new school is that you have to leave a lot behind. A bit like feng shui in the bedroom, when you chuck out anything you've not worn for two years - old text books, work sheets, policies from 30 years ago - all will have to go.

I can see a few old-timers having a breakdown when faced with a roll of black bags - for them, the bulging filing cabinets represent their teaching career. No matter that the drawers haven't been opened for five years, you never know when you might need that badly-typed set of purple banda worksheets from teaching practice.

But what I would question is whether we have indeed created new schools for a new century. We don't know if they will be big enough - because how can we know how a local population will fluctuate? I have never known having too many rooms be a problem - but I do know how stressful sharing classrooms or being peripatetic is.

And will we still be expecting six-foot laddies to sit in tiny desks in 15 years' time? By then, won't older pupils be working from home, by computer link?

And, if I'm slightly anxious about using a whiteboard (having never quite managed a blackboard all that well), I reckon that they'll be out of date before too long as technology romps ahead.

When they demolish the old schools, they are knocking down more than just bricks. Not everything old was bad. With the new schools, let's hope we do get a renaissance in education - not just flashy new buildings.

Along with the skips of old books, let's leave negative thinking behind, and hope that new schools will reawaken a love of learning.

Penny Ward is a secondary teacher.

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