Gove needs to learn his history

3 May 2013 - Viewpoint

By Yasmin Shariff 3rd May 2013 BD

Michael Gove should read Catherine Burke’s recent book on Mary Medd to learn how our school designs evolved in a genuine effort to reduce child mortality and deliver utopian ideals that drew on ideas from America and Scandinavia (Analysis April 26).

Children can be taught anywhere, and inspired teachers are crucial, but have you tried to teach an overcrowded noisy room of young people without proper acoustics and a stuffy atmosphere? Considerable thought went into the Building Bulletins – much of it by Mary Medd. To trash this valuable legacy and stuff learners into rooms without any planning is a travesty and the consequences being felt of a disaffected youth will be a costly price to pay.

Having worked on school buildings for the last five years I have yet to meet a non-architect able to make the best use of space and the site. There has been much gloating about schemes that leak and open planning that does not work but little about the inability of schools to teach a more innovative curriculum for 21st century learning. Having contractors lead the process is not the solution. Contractors can build but, like it or not, you still need architects to make the most of the space and to respond to a creative brief.

Gove needs to understand that architecture is not external decoration and that architects spend a lot of time thinking how to make the most efficient use of funding, energy, social and environmental opportunities as well as the teaching and learning agenda. If he thinks we can teach in a shed, then all he will get is sheep – baaaaad.

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