Tag Archives: school

What do you value about schools?

Travelling through the UK several years ago I visited a wide range of schools to learn about the different ways in which they excelled. I saw effective online learning communities that enabled the snowbound girls of the Holt School to continue their learning relatively uninterrupted; I saw the way integration of the playground and the classroom provided a nurturing environment for students challenged by the traditional restrictive classroom and that it is possible to enable improvement in learning outcomes for students from deprived and confronting urban communities by creating a structured learning environment that insists that the street culture has no place within the walls of the school.

In the lead up to the release of final Year 12 results and the inevitable publication of leagues tables of schools some will be asking is our school in the top 100? But, is that really the key question we should be asking? Is the thing we most value about our school its position in a media generated table?

If I were to ask parents, parents, students and teachers to nominate just 5 things that they value about a school our lists might vary but I suggest that they would look something like this:

Let’s start with parents. The 5 things parents value about a school are:
• The breadth of curriculum and activities for your child to choose from
• A good learning environment – a positive learning community
• Good communication between school and home
• Socialising: having friends and peers that your child can do things with
• A sense of community – parents feel welcome

And students? I suggest the 5 things students value about school:
• Teachers who engage students in class and care about their students
• A safe environment where students have access to people they trust if they have a problems
• Good school facilities, playgrounds and learning spaces
• Opportunities to develop and display your talents
• A strong community based on trust; a community that makes you feel that you belong to something bigger

And as a teacher, the 5 things I would nominate that teachers value about school:
• Relationships with students and the privilege of witnessing their intellectual and social development
• Access to resources that can enhance the performance of the job
• Collegial supportive working relationships
• A culture of professional development and learning
• The support of parents and senior staff

What would you put on your list?

Designing learning spaces

The recognition given to the design and construction of Ravenswood’s Mabel Fidler Building over the past week has been wonderful.

On Thursday evening, 28 July, Ravenswood School for Girls – BVN Architecture was awarded the Sulman Medal which is awarded annually by the NSW Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects for an architectural work of outstanding merit.

http://www.smh.com.au/national/winning-school-library-doesnt-do-it-by-the-book-20120628-2158y.html

Structural engineers TTW and Ravenswood School for Girls also won a High Commendation Award for Large Buildings in the Australian Institute of Steel Awards.

While this public recognition is great to receive, most rewarding has been seeing our students using the building since its opening in August last year. It has fulfilled the school’s objectives of: creating flexible learning spaces; knitting the campus together and establishing a new entry point and hub for the school.

Key elements in the project
A school principal has few if any opportunities to lead a project that represents such an investment for the school and that has the potential to make such a difference. Looking back there were three key factors in the successful design of this project:

1. Time for planning, design and building
There were five years from the inception of this project, originally known as “the hub” to completion of the Mabel Fidler building.

2. Careful choice of the team to work on the project
We ran a limited design competition to select the architects for the building. In fact it was not specifically the design presented that led to our choice of architects but rather a combination of their willingness to listen to our ideas for the kinds of learning spaces we wanted and their understanding of good design for educational facilities.

Educators know how important collaboration is to learning for our students. Finding a team of architects who listened to us and worked closely and collaboratively with us was vital.

We were very lucky that our team included a member of school council, an architect, who gave substantially of her time and brought expertise and passion to the project.

3. Research into the design of learning spaces
It is really useful to read about other projects, preferably to visit completed buildings or even just to look at images of these.
The Edutopia website was initially a great resource http://www.edutopia.org/
Today information about design of spaces and learning abounds. The CEFPI website is a good place to start:
http://www.cefpi.org.au/

It is an exciting and changing educational landscape that we are living in. As we plan buildings today we must be mindful of the impact our decisions will have on students and teachers in the future. Flexibility in design, ensuring technological capability and creating spaces that enable teachers and students to choose the space best suited for particular learning activities are all part of the process of good school design.