By Bob Harrison
Pupils are not being engaged or listened to in the planning for Building Schools for the Future programme, according to the results of a survey – "Building and re-designing schools: students' ideas and opinions" – conducted by Futurelab.
Tim Rudd, the Futurelab senior researcher who managed the research, says: Although this was not a statistically representative sample, the results suggest that there is an appetite from pupils to be involved and engaged with the planning of future learning environments, but the children are not as engaged as they want to be."
The sample of more than 3,000 students at key stages 3 and 4, in a two-week window in February 2010, suggested that the BSF planning and design process is missing out on a valuable and indeed essential key input.
Of the sample students, 58 per cent had never heard of BSF, which is perhaps understandable as many local authorities and schools have yet to formally enter the programme. Of more concern was the finding that, of the 6.5 per cent of those who did know what BSF was, more than 60 per cent said they had not been engaged in the process,
Partnerships for Schools' project director for the initiation phase of BSF, Gary Flanagan, was anxious to stress the importance of all stakeholder engagement: "Partnerships for Schools has been working hard in the last 18 months to encourage those involved in BSF to strengthen the pupil voice."
Tim Rudd also feels BSF is missing a trick when it comes to providing opportunities for pupils' learning as part of the process. "Young people tell us that they want to be involved and use the BSF process to increase their own learning and their experience of learning using digital technologies outside school, with others, with their parents and within their networks," he added. "This could help future-proof the learning environments we are building."
His point is supported by pupils' views on electronic whiteboards which tend to dominate the pupil experience, with 46 per cent saying the technology they used most often but only 31 per cent think they are effective in helping them learn.
"Perhaps we need to scaffold the questions for pupils to ensure we get over the superficial attempts at engagement", suggested Tim Rudd, who is now planning further research and intends to publish the findings soon.
Becta has also recently published some guidance for schools and colleges on developing "Vision for technology and learning" and, of course, Futurelab has a wealth of resources available, including how to engage with and develop the learner voice.
Stakeholder engagement and the role of digital technologies in learning are also key components in the National College for schools and children's services leadership programmes for Capital programmes.
Full feedback from the "Building and re-designing schools: students' ideas and opinions" survey will be published on the Futurelab website.
Bob Harrison is an education consultant who works with the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children's Services (and a contributor to its Future website), the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) and Toshiba UK. You can read his blog on the Futurelab Flux website. He runs Support for Education and Training.