Tag Archives: Building Schools for the Future

There won’t be any shouting in the new school!

So said one principal of a new centre for learning recently. Unfortunately, some new schools, new centres for learning even, seem to ignore some uncomfortable realities about what it is to be a young person, teacher or indeed even human being.

Whatever the rhetoric of dialogue and conversation, there will be staff meetings where announcements are made followed by the brusque shouting out of names, machine gun rat-a-tat of information and further name shouting.

Whatever the architectural demands, there will still be a desire of young women and young men to occupy different spaces when it comes to their ablutions, picking off of acne scabs and throwing of ciggies down the latrines.

Whatever the politics of corridor decoration, posters will become magnets for other posters and there will always a school wag who has to make their mark on the pristine wall hanging.

Whatever the urge for academic rigour and attainment, the fibs will continue to flow cheerfully. The only school ever to have received this national award? The best performance of Grease I’ve ever seen in any school? Mr. Jones was one of the best appointments I ever made? Thank goodness we’re all one big happy community!

Sometimes, we have to give thanks to the portacabins, the empty fields and unassuming concrete of the sixties. They’ve seen many rhetorical times live and fade away and have at least left fond memories of those who once prowled the school perimeters, eating crisps and tearing their school blazers on the boundary barbed wire.

A Waiting Story: Closing Schools’ Death Partners

One morning, waiting at some traffic lights on a motorway junction, I suddenly saw next to me, a travelling companion: my death. He was a well dressed fellow, politely sat looking out the car window, occasionally looking at his wrist watch and smiling. Not a big ogre figure but a patient, well mannered sort of chap who’s biding his time: because it will come, that time, at some point. It seems we all carry our deaths around with us but it takes time to see them in their fruition and in all their glory. There aren’t figures with scythes and black hoods but every day workalong guys with wives and kids to go home to.

The closing school is just that: a real live school which has been living alongside its death partner since it first opened its doors to its staff, its children, their parents and the many other landowners and stakeholders who have something at stake in that community. Its death partner, like mine, has been looking at it askance for some time, tapping its wrist watch and smiling.

The closing school, the dying school is not one that is somehow fading away out of its own volition. It is one that is being killed off: it is being put down and there are no mechanisms in place to help people through that – no bereavement counselling for those inhabiting it or any advisory measures for those who took the decision to put it down.

An Identity is being phased out and obliterated and the one thing that might help those going through this painful process would be the recognition that it was happening to this organism, the community, the school community. This is not an industrial plant that is being decommissioned, but an organism that is being laid to rest, having its life blood and oxygen slowly being sucked out of it.

Slowly and surely the school death partners take their places in the classroom and within the corridors, and in reversal of the processes which build towards creative relationships divide people, break up relationships, cause a loss of interest, stultify curiosity, and unalign people and places and things. They separate rather than bind. They deinstall rather than install. They cause the pulse to slow, the breathing to flutter and the skin of the school to take on a pallid hue. They effect inertia, stasis and once in a while you can see them in the wind blowing across the playground and see their reflections in the puddles which have stopped draining away as there’s no- one around to unblock the drains anymore.