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BSF's ambition should not be abandoned for a quick fix

Glyn Jones, an acting headteacher at an arts college in Derbyshire, says we should not forget the spirit of BSF too quickly

The High Court decision on Friday shows the dust has not quite settled on the decision to scrap the Building Schools for the Future Programme (BSF).

I was part of BSF. It ate a chunk of my life. It give me and my school an overdue place in the sun. It provided drive and momentum. It gave us hope.

My experience of working with the architects was stimulating. Our project – a challenging co-location of a specialist Arts College and a well-established Special School – was allocated to Bond Bryan.

The team was responsive and was driven by the urge to create greater learning chances for the extremely diverse needs of our young people. Skills transfer became the natural order of the day. I became a bit of an architect. I found myself looking at existing provision and thinking about ‘BB98’ specifications and guidelines.

Throughout the process opinions and contributions were valued. Building Schools for the Future was actually a good name for the programme. The devil is very much in the detail. The process was about vision and not just about bricks and money .

The process was about young people and the wider community. Students were energised in the process. IT provided a curriculum vehicle that enabled them to participate using building design software. They became, not surprisingly, very adept at identifying key construction and environmental issues.

Entrenched teaching staff , frozen in place for years, began to thaw. Physical and intellectual barriers began to slowly melt in the face of the warmth of planned ‘adjacency’.

Teamwork blossomed. The local authority, architects and schools worked tirelessly together. The pace became relentless.

BSF of course had flaws. In the early stages far too time was wasted on external consultants whose only brief was to advise on a process that was, in fact, intrinsically, fairly easy to comprehend.                                                                                       

The waste was in the bureaucracy. There was an excessive emphasis on a ponderous and tedious formula that only excelled at self-justification.

The key words behind BSF have substance, ambition and hope. We must avoid sacrificing stimulating and planned community cohesion simply to satisfy an urge to ‘ASN’ …..assemble a school for now.

Glyn Jones, at the time the acting head of Alfreton Grange Arts College

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