We're still in the foothills of a transformed education system. The fact that our national programme to create a transformed education system is called "Building Schools for the Future" is a pretty clear sign that we're looking at this from today's perspective Why didn't somebody spot that the words "Building Schools" in the title might inhibit the innovative thinking? However, if you look deeply into the BSF programme, and talk to others, you'll find plenty of radical proposals floating around. Knowsley were splashed over the papers (with predictable headlines) when they announced that they were closing their schools under BSF, and re-opening "Learning Centres"; Sandwell's programme is under the control of the Director of Transformation, and they are seeing it as an opportunity for community-wide renewal, not just something which affects schools.
My colleague, Chris Poole, is working with a range of innovators within the BSF programme and beyond, and he was telling me about Hugh Christie Technology College in Kent, where they are doing radical things, including a comprehensive restructure of the timetable. The BBC recently covered it in their Future Schools feature on Breakfast, and it is worth taking a couple of minutes to watch what they are doing, and the response of students and parents.
I asked Chris to tell me more about what they are doing:
Last September they introduced a 'time shifted curriculum'. For those who think this is ‘whacky’ or way outside your personal experience, I speak with a number of local authorities who are increasingly looking at new ways of organising ‘school’, and shift based education is being seriously considered along with placing ‘school’ in shopping malls, and 'all through' schools with multi service co-location - meaning less physical sites. This development is being supported by the Government’s Innovation Unit.
The implementation of time shifted curricula is new but the concept has been around for some time. I was involved in some early investigations for 6th form shift based curriculum in the late 80s, and kids go to school at different times in Finland and Portugal for example. It is significant because the model, or derivatives, means you can offer the flexibility and choice of curriculum increasingly needed and save space at the same time. Important when you are spending £45bn and want reform!
There are plenty of implications of this - I have heard Chris talking about how it can substantially reduce the building costs - and when 90% of BSF is allocated to the building costs, that's worth looking at...
One of the other programmes in the Future Schools series on BBC Breakfast is all about the use of new technology in schools. They visit Broadclyst Primary School, near Exeter to look at their use of ICT. You can read more about Broadclyst on this blog .