Connected classes and community schools for generation 2050
Stephen Beechey, group strategy director at Wates, looks ahead to the schools our children’s children will be attending.
Wates recently launched its latest white paper, The Class of 2050; a vision of the future for UK Schools.
It casts an eye forward to 2050, gathering expert views on what the future holds for our schools and the children of the post millennial generation, summarising the results of an online survey, and raising some interesting thoughts around curriculum, funding, flexibility, emerging technologies and community use.
We think there are four key learning points from the paper. First, the school of the future is well positioned to become the new “heart of the community”, which could provide a hub of shared facilities. This might range from social services and support through to healthcare and faith centres.
With proper planning – including safeguarding – libraries, sports facilities and technical learning spaces are just some of the facilities that the community could make use of at certain times outside school hours. We believe that the trend for schools to become the community hub will have a significant impact on schools of the future, and how we design and build those schools to the required specifications.
Second, we found broad agreement among those we interviewed and surveyed that a school in 2050 will have developed stronger relationships with business organisations. Relationships need to evolve with better links and a deeper level of support from businesses, perhaps even to go as far as part funding schools directly.
Why this drive to involve business more directly in schools? One of the key roles for any school, as highlighted in the report, is to prepare young people for the workplace, equipping them with the skills and knowledge to succeed. Where schools develop closer relationships with businesses, there is huge potential to build employability skills, such as a positive attitude to work, communication skills and teamwork – the absence of such from entry level students is a regular complaint of employers.
A third forecast change is that the internal design of a school will become much more open, allowing greater flexibility of internal space. This would give teachers the ability to adapt space for lecture style or small tutorial groups, whatever is more conducive to learning particular subjects. Over two-thirds of survey respondents could envisage a point at which children were taught by stage rather than age, a concept that will have significant implications for the education system itself and indeed, for school design.
Sheffield UTC is a school of the future built by Wates
Finally, technology will remain central to any future school environment, but how will its use change within a school? The use of “big data” and connectivity to the Internet of Things will be able to offer not only new opportunities for students and their learning, but also in the way the school itself is managed. The interconnection of personal devices and devices embedded within a school is expected to usher in a new age of automation in nearly all fields.
Implementation of this kind of technology will pave the way for ultra-personalised learning and lifestyle plans for pupils, and benefit future school administrators by providing an intelligent and automated building that responds to its surroundings and occupants.
These four areas effectively give us, as contractors, a specification to respond to as each of these key areas in turn have implications on the specification of schools. In the last decade, we have made immense improvements in energy efficiency, acoustics and infrastructure but this next wave of specification will present new and different challenges.
As we respond to the need to develop more cost-effective ways to deliver outstanding educational buildings, the government needs to recognise that to support a prosperous future nation it must adequately fund future requirements.
In a global race to maintain and enhance the educational attainment of our young people, schools need to change. Can we meet the challenge for 2050?
Stephen Beechey is group strategy director and managing director government affairs at Wates
For more information and an accompanying video see www.wates.co.uk/classof2050