This Is What Happens When Pioneering Is Crushed

I’ve been in the education profession now for 20 years. Most of that time, I taught in semi-open-plan or fully open-plan schools. In fact, I went to an open-plan school for my own primary school education. I find the debate about open-plan schooling laughable. For much of my life, ‘open-plan schooling’ was just ‘schooling’ and, to me, it stood to reason that the best teachers work together.

A decade ago, I was in the thick of collaborating with my team to change learning so that it could be more creative, flexible and utilise our expertise. We developed curriculum, pedagogies and spaces that were fit-for-purpose for the modern era. It was such a fulfilling time in my career. Over the course of a year, we also met frequently with the architects to explain the kinds of learning experiences we were trying to create and they came back-and-forth to us with ideas and designs for a purpose-built learning space. In Jan 2011, the designs were built and suddenly the space was facilitating the learning experiences that we had imagined and more.

We were truly a community of collaborative learners. Creating this community was bloody hard work and it was bloody fun. Students had access to a a variety of teachers and teachers would exploit their hidden creativity and expertise fully, and we encouraged each student to do the same. Now that I’m a parent, I’d send my child to this school in a heart-beat.

Now, there’s reports detailing the many benefits of this approach. Prof. John Hattie has just published a report written by about Lindfield Learning Village which, in my view, is version 2.0 of the education experience above and has Lou Deibe, who led the team above, as their AP… and, it’s glowing.

Find the report here:

I’m in no way surprised and but so pleased that the review is formal.

Why do I feel so saudade (happy and sad simultaneously)? The school I mentioned above, the one in which we spent a year purpose-building the learning space alongside architects, has seemingly spent lock-down putting up walls and ensuring that sitting at desks is the primary place for learning. I’d no longer consider sending my child there – it looks cold and cookie-cutter.

Look at the images above — There are few options of places to learn other than a desk. Where is the space for circle time? What if students want to stand to learn? Where can they play games? Where are the resources they can access for their learning?

Sure – there are moveable doors for collaboration but, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about moveable doors/walls, it’s this – they don’t get opened.

It could seem like all our work a decade ago was a waste but, I don’t think that. The students then received an outstanding and vibrant education. It’s just a shame that the students now won’t get that privilege.

Why did this happen, you ask? I’m not sure but I know that this is an example of why education never moves forward and when it does, it’s far too easy for it to slip backward.



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