Pupil input to school design found wanting

17th April 2009 at 01:00
Claim that Building Schools for the Future pays only lip service to involvement

The government's drive to include pupils in the design process of the Building Schools for the Future scheme is nothing more than "tokenism", a report has claimed.

The study by academics at Coventry, Leicester, Northampton and Keele universities found that pupils and teachers were given little opportunity to shape rebuilds or refurbishments undertaken as part of the Pounds 55 billion programme.

They warned that this could cause further alienation. "Children who are already disaffected with the education system will find themselves further disenfranchised and unable to relate to their school environment unless participation is formalised in the design process," the report said.

Unless the BSF process is altered to allow more time for pupils to become involved in the design of their school, participation will remain "tokenistic, inappropriate or disappointing", it said.

School design has repeatedly been linked with pupil behaviour and the British Council for School Environments has launched a Great Schools Campaign to ensure high-quality design. As part of that, Estelle Morris, former education secretary, will chair an inquiry into the role schools play in "improving the life chances of young people and tackling social inequality".

Writing in today's TES, she says: "Research carried out by the Teacher Support Network and the BCSE identified that almost nine out of 10 teachers believe that the learning environment affects pupil behaviour; and almost one in three said the poor design of their schools affected their teaching."

A spokesperson for Partnerships for Schools, the agency responsible for delivery of the BSF programme, said: "This snapshot of student participation in just 10 schools in 2007-08 does not reflect the ongoing work by PfS, and our delivery partners, to ensure student voices are listened to.

"The recent PricewaterhouseCoopers second-year evaluation indicates that schools are gaining a much better understanding of the BSF process and we are seeing greater use of pupil voice - primarily because we now make consultation a requirement to enter BSF at the 'readiness to deliver' stage.

"We continue to engage with the English Secondary Students Association on how to best develop learner views, and we will soon be launching guidance on consultation which underlines the need for learner engagement. Comment, page 28.

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