School buildings

The latest educational scare story is talking about schools “having to use empty shops and warehouses” because of an upcoming population bulge

One borough is also considering “split shifts” with, they suggest, a morning shift between 7am and 1pm, and an afternoon one between 2pm and 7pm (I hope they teach arithmetic with time in one of them anyway – haven’t they noticed the difference in length?)

I suppose the split shift idea would be an interesting way to test the effect of learning at different times of the day – but I can’t help feeling it would be rather problematic in terms of parents’ jobs (you couldn’t run before or after school clubs for that long, surely), public transport (tried getting anywhere for a 7am start without a car? Often not the easiest) and indeed provision for teachers’ families if they were following a normal day elsewhere.

So does it matter if kids get taught in random buildings? Don’t think it’s a big deal, personally – provided it’s safe, clean and has got the appropriate facilities. When I was at school (both primary and secondary) there used to be a few prefabs dotted round outside the main premises. Without exception, we thought that going to the “outside classroom” was a great treat. I remember being highly excited on hearing that one of these was our form room for the second year of infants (year 1 now, I guess). Though that was nothing compared to the excitement we felt going into such a form room in the fifth form of secondary school (Year 11) – it was right opposite the sixth form boys’ common room! I am sure a few marriages owe their beginnings to that form room… But enough of the reminiscing!

I’ve taught in some slightly odd places myself (one of the consequences of a rather unconventional career). It makes my job easier, and working with colleagues simpler, if I’m teaching in a well-equipped, purpose-built environment as I do these days, but I don’t think it makes my lessons any better. A boring teacher is just as boring in a great environment (though you may have more things to look at to distract you from boredom).

Sure, if there was tons of money floating around, and tons of space, it’d be great to enlarge all those school buildings, and then when the bulge passed, just have some spare space or smaller classes in the school. But that isn’t going to happen. I’m slightly more alarmed at where they’re going to recruit all those extra teachers from – and what happens to them when numbers fall again

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