Monday, 23 February 2009

21st century schools (2)

... I'd spent a fair bit of time in and around Parramatta, near Sydney in New South Wales, before going on to Tasmania. Talking to Parramatta children from four schools (two primary, two secondary) I asked them all if they could bring just ONE item of furniture from home what would it be. Cue a long chat about how they find it hard to read sitting upright in an office / school chair (does ANYONE on the planet ever do this at home?) and how they prefer "relaxed" seating, or sitting on the floor. One said he'd bring his bed in!!

It is also pretty hard to be collaborative or sociable on the standard school chair isn't it? It isn't built for conversation to the left or the right. And the secondary children also spoke of how they missed the playfulness of their primary school lives.

Well, goodness knows I've said all this often enough and in this picture here we are again at the blessed St Aloysius in Tasmania where they have playful and comfy and social all in one go with these sofas which they found, affordably, in a library catalogue. You could read, learn, collaborate in this school, couldn't you?

21st century schools: here's a really good one

I've said so often, for so long, about losing industrial "bullying ante chamber" toilets, about agile transparent learning space, about light, about small sub communities of children in learning bases, about losing expensive wasteful corridors, about displaying work externally by projecting onto windows, about shared space for science, food science or whatever, and so much, much, much, more. And yet I still see the emergence of dismal new factory schools. Mercifully in many of the places I'm lucky to be working, things have moved on hugely and 21st century learning is a fact rather than a distant aspiration.

And here's a wonderful school, in Tasmania, that's done it all and done it SO well. Staff and students love it, parents are reaping the dividend of commiting their children to a new design. It came in under budget, it really shows the thought, leadership and debate by all involved and it is quite, quite lovely.

Why do people STILL build cells n bells factory schools when for less money they can do this and then see substantially better learning as a result? And why don't inspection systems criticise schools whose lack of ambition fails their students by continuing to embrace a model of factory learning with a dull incrementl targets?

St Aloysius, I salute you - what a wonderful and ambitious place to be learning - I'll post a lot more images soon and then link them from here.

Meanwhile, these are the toilets: doors that fit the frame top and bottom, glass means no place for bullies, the toilets are small scale and everywhere. These folk LISTENED and reflected and it shows, everywhere.

Saturday, 21 February 2009


As someone who doesn't even eat meat (just seems wrong to kill them somehow, even worse when you consider the global warming implications of animals for food) I can't help but admire the brave folk on the anti-whaling ship the Steve Irwin, which has arrived in Hobart to refuel this weekend, skull and crossbones proudly flying.

The ship docked in Hobart this afternoon after pursuing Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean for several weeks and the bow bears testament to just how tough that pursuit has been. Plenty of video footage on youTube. Anyone who knows the sea will know just how tough this kind of action must be. Just like the late Steve Irwin, these are brave folk.

Friday, 20 February 2009


Tasmania - where i am currently - has some wonderful period architecture. Coming from a village in England where the oldest house is from the 1300's nothing much here is really old unless it's aboriginal, but these charming features and scale make for some really delightful houses (and of course they are not cheap!!). They help people in Hobart to really feel part of a community.

In building schools around the world we have used local culture groups and children with cameras / phones to capture the feature that say "us' most strongly and then try to capture the angles, shiplap, details, textures, colours, heights etc., in the new school designs. It really works, of course, but how could anyone ever imagined that one size might fit all?

Thursday, 19 February 2009


Walking to the conference hall for a hugely enjoyable evening of questions from the Catholic Schools of the Parramatta diocese in New South Wales (we had over 80 schools connected on-line and hundreds of folk actually attending the event too) I was stopped in my tracks passing by the HUGE rooms full of what I once knew as one-armed bandits, but are more generically known as slot machines. The awful thing to see is that no one ever appears to be enjoying themselves.

I guess all addictions are like that...

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Time Out

I do get a bit confused in these bursts of frenetic travel. It's not the time zones, in all honesty I can sleep on a piece of string if I'm tired enough - it's the today / yesterday bit and the season-lag confusion of suddenly trading dark mornings for light ones and so on. And even in the end-of-summer-heat of the Southern Hemisphere (I'm in Australia), I'm still carrying a "sensible jacket" in case of a jolly cold snap!

Some Valentine's Day - I left on the Friday (13th) and arrived on the Sunday (15th!!). Better have two next year to make up!!

Monday, 9 February 2009

BAFTA bash

Once again a walk along the red carpet leads to this year's BAFTA Awards for cinema - this is partner Carole walking ahead of me - and it was noticeable this year how restrained the fashions were - we are clearly in the midst of a very significant depression (see previous centuries!).

As cinema has built huge barriers to entry of new competition through vast budgets and bloated marketing it has somehow also isolated itself from originality and creativity with the result being a host of remakes almost always worse than the original, badly interpreted books, and dismal sequel / prequels (the recent awful Steve Martin Inspector Clousseau being surely a millenium-long low?). So it was a relief to see some really unexpectedly good films in the frame for awards this year. Just as music seems to have rediscovered talent through live performance, so maybe cinema is recovering its values from the accountants too? Watch out for the rediscovery of theatre next...

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Clock This

Wonderful evening at the BAFTA Nominees' Party, which was generously hosted by Aspreys in London Bond Street. Very glam!

Amongst a sea of movie stars (sorry, takimg pictures would have been intrusive - everyone deserves some privacy) the Asprey jewels, clocks, antiques and first edition books (Pooh! Beatrix Potter!!) shone out. The place is literally a treasure trove.

This 21st century grandfather clock was astonishing - by the way, Mickey Rourke (nominated for his tour de force in Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler") is standing right behind me at this point; he was also upstairs and interested in clocks - but looking wonderfully decadent (in his slippers!!). Nice bloke.

There was something quite reaffirming about seeing the community that represent the captivating craft of cinema exploring and enjoying the craft of hand made jewellery (Asprey's workshops are up on the roof) - and all coming together to appreciate each other's skill and creativity. Wherever 21st century learning takes us, being good at stuff still really matters, (mercifully)

Fab evening.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow Boat

Unexpectedly HUGE dump of snow in London last night, as you can see from this picture of our boat at St Katherine Docks. London, with 12 million people usually has something of a micro climate keeping it warmer than the surrounding towns and cities.

Also, down at water level (it is still tidal at this part of east London) the Thames usually keeps things a bit warmer too, like a giant storage heater, so this much snow on the boat is very unusual. It's actually really hard to get on and off the boat safely as you can imagine - although it was very snug on board last night. Ice and snow on gel coat, even with a textured non slip racing-safe finish, is quite a lively surface underfoot!

Sunday, 1 February 2009


A craze is sweeping London (and no doubt elsewhere) for delicious and beautifully presented cup cakes like these.

I bought these in East London's Brick Lane's Sunday Up Market which is a multi ethnic foodie heaven. I had Japanese cabbage amd seaweed pancakes for lunch.

The market is indicative of just how cosmopolitan London has become, like a number of other huge World Cities. You really can see the lines of democratic organisation being redrawn in the 21st century and can't help but wonder whither the nation state as new organizational groupings and communities emerge...

Meanwhile the cup cakes were yum.