Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Living in a recession

Illustration by Claudia McGehee.

We are all in a very strange situation at present. We currently sit in the middle of a recession where all around us budgets are being cut funding is disappearing and businesses are contracting. On top of this we have the added unknown of a potential new Government and changes in policy.

For business all of this presents a new set of challenges. We have to try and second guess what a new Government may do and how we can plan a strategy around this. Many of the plans we are making are based upon how we operate today. However in less than a year the Government could very quickly implement new policies which would affect everything we do. You only have to look at the change of policy by the Learning and Skills Council to see the massive impact that this had on the construction industry in such a short space of time.

A counter to this uncertainty is the amount of opportunity which appears during such times. Companies looking at joint ventures or working together are on the increase. Markets which were previously saturated now provide opportunity. Even recruitment is providing opportunity. Over the last 10 years one of the greatest challenges to our business has been in recruitment for our needs. Now we find incredibly talented people working in warehouses or maintaining gardens.

Recession is just another business challenge where risk and opportunity have to be balanced for long term sustainability.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Photos from the TES Classroom of the Future...

For more images taken at the event, visit the _space life Facebook page by clicking HERE.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Poles apart

I am just returning on the train from two days spent at the Times Education Supplement exhibition at Olympia. We were asked by the organisers if we would support them in presenting the classroom of the future at their event. We were provided with 65 square metres in which to build the futuristic space.

I agreed to support TES as this was not the normal type of event we would attend and it was attended by teachers rather than designer and builders. These would include BESEC for example.

This event was very much attended by the users of our buildings. The exhibition would give us the chance to test some of our thoughts on the teaching profession. Our thinking in relation to learning environments has be driven by our own beliefs, research and guidance issued by the government. Our classroom of the future or learnspace as we like to refer to it is a flexible diverse and adaptable space. I believe the classrooms of the future will be heavily influenced by IT and furniture. In a single space we have tried to allow the ability for several activities to be carried in a single period. The activities could include create, investigate, communicate, generate, educate, collaborate and integrate.

Much of this is already adopted in the way primary children are taught. They use group working and project based learning. Their furniture is flexible and they sit on the floor or even outside. At secondary school everything changes. We use 56 square metre rooms with 30 seats and desks all facing the front where knowledge will be imparted.

What has been interesting from the exhibition has been the reticence from the teaching profession. I initially thought the issues were about fear of the IT. However I think the issues are deeper. The teachers seemed to feel by having a class broken down into small groups it would be too hard to manage and they wouldn’t have the time to control the students.

There is without doubt two very polarised camps. The design and construction industry seem to have aligned with the government and PfS in delivering new schools. At the conferences supporting this camp there are very few teachers. On the other side there are the teachers who have their own defined view. At present never the two shall meet.

We can't continue to design and deliver schools and spend all of this money and not engage and embrace the profession who will be working in them. The BSF programme is about transformation but at the moment we are delivering schools without the teaching practices aligned. We need to get an understanding from both sides and see how we can move forward together. We mustn’t forget the driver for this investment is to improve the futures of our children. Until we move away from the pressures of delivering grades there will not be the space to update how our teachers teach and our learners learn.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Classroom of the future

A 3D of our TES 'Classroom of the Future'

I'm on way down to the TES (Times Education supplement) exhibition in Olympia in London today. This is a 2 day gather of a wide range of the teaching profession. We are showcasing learnspace which is our classroom of the future. We have a 65 sqm space which we have set up as a space which could be the classroom of the future.

We believe spaces need to be flexible, adaptable and diverse to suit a whole range of learning approaches. We have an IT partner who is showcasing the latest technology. We will have everything from large format screens for sharing information to itouch for personal information.

We have a couple of furniture partners who range from the specialist fixed furniture through to loose furniture. Ergonomics are forgotten in a learn space and need to be given more consideration in the future. This should be an exciting couple of days.