Free Schools: an amazing opportunity for ICT

Free Schools are in the spotlight at the moment. Anyone can setup a school outside the control of the Local Authority and get it fully-funded by the state so long as they adhere to a set of baseline rules. Obviously they are not...

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Free Schools are in the spotlight at the moment. Anyone can setup a school outside the control of the Local Authority and get it fully-funded by the state so long as they adhere to a set of baseline rules.

Obviously they are not ‘free’ in the sense that private schools that obtain their money from their customers are ‘free’ as they ( like Academies) are highly centralised viz a vis their funding which comes directly from Mr Gove...and ‘he who pays the piper etc’

Autumn 2011 saw the first 24 schools open their doors (cf 1000 Academies and 24000 Local Authority schools). Free Schools are created through the efforts of groups who typically are drawn from local communities and consist of parents, businesses, ethnic and religious communities all who are sufficiently motivated to create educational provision; in their image for their children.

But whatever you think of the Academy and Free School initiative it represents an unprecedented window of opportunity to employ new technology and new ideas. But what is so sad is that when actually you look at a Free School... it looks like, well, it looks like just a school...a school from the past.

To me such timid social conservatism is analogous to Prince Charles’ view of architecture which swept away modernism and replaced it in the UK with neo-classical atavism and bucolic pastiche. This is a shame as technology offers schools far more than a 1950’s blazer and cap under an ivy covered portico complete with latin motto.

Here are some of my suggestions :)

The predicate is that technology is cheap, people and building aren’t so stop pretending the opposite.

Building and Technology

Ditch the high-tech steel and glass onanistic fantasies beloved of architects and once over-funded Las ... too silly, too expensive.

Ditch the Charterhouse lookalikes and leave the Bullingdon club parodies to the terminally sad social climbers ... all facade and rugger.

Finally ditch the converted fire-trap over-large private house … wholly unsuited for anything except demolition.

Instead head for the industrial estate and rent a unit built to the highest saving energy specs, with good road and rail access and an ultra-fast broadband pipe. Fit it out to suit your purposes.
We should embrace the new school as the production unit it has been for a very long time but cared not to admit.

Teaching and Technology

We want the best teachers. These are hard to find, harder to retain and cost more than the worst. Inspirational and effective teachers are rare. Charisma combined with understanding of how children learn and a deep personal knowledge is a wonderful thing but few have it. So let the few teach the many.

Video voip teaching is sweeping the globe providing specialist knowledge to anyone with a decent broadband link. My Unit school would have full virtual reality head-sets for all and access to thousands of the best teachers worldwide with hundreds of subject possibilities.

It would be open from 6am to 10pm with a permanent support staff of teachers to help the students with their personal work and ensure a calm working environment (unlike home!) and maybe a few large Alsatian dogs for any discipline issues.

Is it original? Of course not Zaphod Beeblebrox went to a school just like this and look how he turned out.

Will the children grow up as over-qualified, de-socialised and under-exercised monsters? So no change there then.

Will it be cheaper and more effective? Depends on what you call education dunnit?

In any case please can we have some innovation.

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