Three key themes emerged from our first Education Expert Panel meeting and after exploring these in more detail, the subgroups reported back their initial thoughts and ideas as summarised by Dan Tassell from Haworth Tompkins.
Theme 1 – Creative Curriculum
With the creative curriculum coming under both policy and budgetary pressure, this is a critical moment to increase engagement with education providers and policy makers to ensure the future workforce is equipped with the creative skills required to shape the design of our built environment.
We discussed how the link between creative subjects and careers needs to be more clearly articulated to ensure these subjects are appropriately valued both in economic terms, and in terms of wider benefits such as self-expression and critical thinking. Opportunities for pupils to engage directly with the design of the built environment could be strengthened through greater use of co-design, involvement in local masterplanning and an awards programme that celebrates young designers.
The subgroup identified a range of organisations, initiatives and programmes that facilitate access to, and participation in, the creative curriculum. However, it is clear there is potential for greater coordination of available options and for building stronger partnerships both locally and internationally.
Theme 2 - Re-using space / Multi-use space for Education
The decline of traditional retail means high streets are having to adapt to attract a more diverse range of uses. In this context the subgroup are exploring opportunities for expanding the presence of education spaces on high streets, helping to drive footfall to support local businesses, and creating a bridge between education providers and the communities in which they reside.
A small local retail outlet presents a very different offer to a large town centre department store, so a range of approaches would be required and there are increasing numbers of case studies that demonstrate how such spaces can be successfully adapted. Typologies might range from flexible ‘one stop shops’ to facilitate classes, adult learning, after school clubs or exams, through to specialist facilities such as theatres, workshops or recording studios that can be used by local schools as well as the wider community to support lifelong learning.
Initial thoughts around delivery and funding include building partnerships between local authorities, education providers and businesses, with the potential to unlock funding from development contributions, industry social value initiatives, sponsorship and knowledge sharing.
A high-street presence provides visibility and accessibility, but further engagement is required to explore how such spaces can attract those that are hardest to reach and to ensure benefits are widely shared.
Theme 3 - Retrofit / Net Zero
One of the recuring themes across all panel subgroups was how to deliver change within a challenging budgetary environment. This is especially true when considering the scale of the challenge required to retrofit and decarbonise thousands of schools and colleges across the DfE estate. There is an urgent need to present an affordable and deliverable retrofit package that can be rolled out at scale, so the group plan to gather case studies that can be used as exemplars across a range of school typologies.
Within the higher education sector, ambitious targets for decarbonisation have been set but many institutions are being constrained by a lack of swing space making it challenging to retrofit at the scale and the pace required.
Climate adaptation is another key consideration, with overheating a concern particularly during the summer term. As education providers decarbonise their estates, it is important that passive measures are incorporated to help mitigate the impact of climate change at the same time.
The panel are energised by the ideas and possibilities being explored across the three themes. Now the focus shifts towards honing these further and producing outputs and recommendations that can inform the New London Agenda and beyond.