School acoustics – making ourselves heard

We held a great seminar on monday at East Manchester Academy discussing the full range of issues connected to school acoustics. This is a topic we’ve looked at quite a bit in the past but it seemed like a good time to find out what changes had happened and will happen to the current guidance and legislation as well as the solutions emerging in the system. We also had the great fortune to have two world experts come over from the US to address the group – Professor Carol Flexer and Dan Ostergren, thanks to our sponsors Lightspeed Technologies.

All of the presentations from the seminar are available here. I will also post up an update to this post with some of the highlights from the event early next week.

The James Review – digested

Well – its been a busy final day before the Easter holidays. Nothing like a 105 page government report to test your stamina!. We were asked this afternoon to comment on a BBC report that headlines the ‘failure of the school building system’ but as I said: there is much to be welcomed in the report’s conclusions. So… the myriad of elements of the Capital Review have been deliberated, cogitated and digested and here is my view of the main conclusions of the report. Continue reading →

James Review is (finally) here

After a long wait, we finally have the Independent Review of Education Capital – the James Review – which sets out the 16 recommendations for the reform of the way schools are procured, designed and built. Continue reading →

Headlines from a plan for growth budget

As I predicted yesterday on this site, there was some positive news on education in today’s budget, particularly in the expansion of University Technical Colleges and praise for links between universities and these new 14-19 institutions.

Education took centre stage in today’s budget alongside tax changes, fuel duty changes, scrapping of business regulations, planning reform and investment for exports in what the Chancellor entitled his ‘plan for growth’.

‘Let Britain be the home of enterprise,’ said Osbourne, as he highlighted education as key pillar in his aim for Britain to be ‘globally competitive’. An ‘attack on Britain’s low skills ‘ was essential he claimed.

The budget also included a new deal on Green energy and a green investment bank. Measures to close tax avoidance loopholes also introduced.

Commenting that other countries had improved their ‘education systems’ with far-reaching reforms, the chancellor announced:

  • Support for Technology & Innovation at nine Universities
  • Small Companies research tax credit – expanded
  • 21 New Enterprise Zones created across the country
  • Expansion of University Technical College’s – to fund twenty four
  • Apprenticeships – expanded
  • As a small charity good to see Gift aid limits increased from £500 to £2000

‘Made in Britain, Designed in Britain’ This was a ‘march of the makers’ budget according to the Chancellor.

Still waiting for Sebastian James…

The long heralded James Review on the future of schools capital seems to have had more pencilled-in launch dates than a NASA Shuttle. But we are pretty confident it will be launched shortly… For an industry that thrives on certainty, local authorities that need to plan and schools that need investment, this delay has implications. Rumours often fill information voids; some are plainly ridiculous, some really do represent debate within the Review team and Government. What we do know for sure are the three key watchwords for the James Review: building condition, standardisation and more for less.

Continue reading →

Free Schools debate – video finally live

The best things come to those who wait!! After a long while pulling the videos together, here is our fantastic free schools debate that took place at our BCSE Annual Conference last November. The views of this wonderfully diverse panel are a fascinating insight into the hot issues at the centre of the free schools agenda. The panelists include: Jon de Maria, Fiona Millar, Indy Johar, Dale Bassett and Sobia Bashir – chaired by Pascale Scheurer. We are always looking to continue the debate – so please send us your comments

Times Plus / Michael Gove education debate…


Give me the decayed glamour of a music hall in the East End; a panel discussion on education and I’m a happy man. This week I was a guest of Teach First at a Times Plus Newspaper debate:- ‘ Are our Schools Fit for purpose? ’ at Wilton’s Music Hall just off cable Street,  London, E1. Here are some golden nuggets from this tuesday’s interesting and stimulating evening. Continue reading →

Capital ‘James’ Review – our submission

It is clear that the much awaited Government’s Review of Capital Investment led by Sebastian James (pictured left) will represent a significant milestone in the development of a new approach to investing in the infrastructure and facilities in our schools across the country. The challenge is clear: how do we maintain a level of investment, focus and innovation within a tight budget settlement. Whilst some local authorities apply for Judicial Review of decisions to cut Building Schools for the Future (BSF), the national challenge remains. Quite simply a significant proportion of our school estate is now beyond its design life – schools need to be fit for purpose. Continue reading →

Free schools – opening up the debate

We are just doing some final edits of video material from Gleeds TV from last year’s British Council for School Environments Annual conference and in particular the debate about Free Schools – with Fiona Millar, Indy Johar, Jon de Maria, Sobia Bashir, Dale Bassett and Pascale Scheurer – is one of the best and most articulate debates I’ve seen.

We will post up the video in full very shortly – but here is a taster of what Indy Johar (Research 00, Demos and Respublica) and Pascale Scheurer (Surface to Air, Wired and Hackney Free School for Creative Entreprenurship) think about this key policy issue in the context, respectively, of the international/global debate about education and learning and at the grassroots / policy level in England.

New Year: time for fresh thinking on school capital

It’s been a long break from Centre for School Design activity – but with a lot of British Council for School Environments work in December including a study tour to New York and New Jersey, a new board of trustees and chairperson (Rachel Jones), a new office move to Islington, a second screening of the film Waiting for Superman with the thinktank Policy Exchange – and some big planning for 2011… we have used last few weeks to recover regroup! Continue reading →

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