23 SES 04 C, Educational Space
Parallel Paper Session
This paper combines insights drawn from reflections on writing contemporary history and critical policy studies. We will undertake an analysis of the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme which had as its focus the rebuilding and refurbishment of all 3,500 secondary schools in England. BSF was intended to play a key part in the former Labour Government’s overall educational and social policy trajectory. It combined a huge expansion in the infrastructure of social and educational provision with explicit themes of economic, social, educational and community transformation. Such school rebuilding was not just an English phenomenon as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) initiatives demonstrate.
Before the 2010 General Election the Conservative Party made clear its antipathy to BSF, hence, it was little surprise when on July 5th the new Coalition Government announced the cancellation of over 700 BSF planned school projects and the end of the programme. It also announced the James’ Review of Capital Spending which clarified the new Government’s intended move towards a ‘building-based’ orientation based on efficiency, value-for-money, and removal of emphasis on educational and community transformation.
This reversal in policy represents a fundamental shift in contemporary historical orientation to the significance accorded to ‘educational space’. This paper will pay particular attention to the design and construction elements of BSF including its location within the context of OECD research which will enable us to illustrate how BSF fits into an international perspective. It will focus on debates, both past and present, about the values and outcomes underpinning principles of school design and their implications for understanding BSF in a European and historical context. We shall take account of issues surrounding the writing of contemporary histories of fast policy. Our theoretical framework will also be informed by the literature on architectural design and values, and will question the evidence base on which claims about transformation are assessed.
In the light of the cancellation of BSF the paper will explore the significance of the loss of both the ‘educational and community transformation agenda’ and local participation in the planning process. In this discussion we question whether these changes were inevitable given the ‘credit crisis’ or whether they are being driven/impelled by other forces, for example, ideology and social selection. In the light of this discussion we shall ask whether economic stringency is having a comparable impact on school building programmes elsewhere in Europe.
Such questions are salient since alternative expressions of approaches to school ‘space and structure’ have important implications for models of teaching/learning, curriculum development and pedagogical practice. They also have particular relevance to the construction of social meanings of diversity and difference and to the construction of identities. As we have discovered through our empirical research, such contested changes in policy are impacting on the communities within which schools are embedded and on local economies and patterns of community cohesion.
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