Recent Governments have talkedabout returning freedom and greaterindependence to schools. This direction of public policy was given life with the creationof Academies under the last Government,and the new coalition policy establishing'free' schools and new style academies.Autonomy for schools was enshrined by thepresent Government in the Academies Actin July 2010.The announcement of the rst 16 FreeSchools in September 2010 signalled acommitment to thinking about theprovision of school places indierent ways.Government, too, seems committedto reforming planning and buildingregulations, including change of use toenable schools to be established in manydierent types of buildings. Free schools thinking is the term we use asa framework for freeing up thinking aboutthe education system and the way schoolswork: the time when learning happens, thespaces in which teachers plan and deliverlessons, the range of people who help tosupport learning, and the places whereschools can operate and be located.Through the investment in the school estate,there has been a quiet revolution in theway a number of schools have approachedtheir environment and how they haveused this to raise standards and improvethe life chances of their communities.This publication explores the manytypes of spaces and places that weall recognise and their benets andlimitations for becoming schools.Realising the ambition of the current freeschools policy will take new thinking.What is already evident are new approachesto curriculum and teaching and learning.Ambition will need to be coupled withpractical common sense. The new 3Rsof refresh, refurbish and the reuse of our public buildings when budgets aretight should not diminish the need tothink creatively about making decentspaces for teachers and learners.Despite recent press, decent schoolenvironments do matter for teachersand young people – and we can nowprove it. We must continue to focus ondelivery not waste, and partnerships thatdeliver real value to our communities.
Free Schools Thinking allowsus to think about
• Buildings in a dierent way –they are a public asset• Re-using buildings – whether oldschools or other buildings – rejuvenatesour communities and promotesthe environmental agenda• Educational spaces and the qualityof the places in which teachingand learning take placeFree schools thinking is already happeningthroughout the country. This publicationurges further thinking and creativity aboutthe environment as a tool and an asset thatenriches learning and enables teaching.It is imperative that we continue to investin our schools estate. In doing so it isequally important that we free up ourthinking about the way our schools work.
Ty Goddard and Ian Fordham
BCSE and The Centre for School Design