12 November 2009 Comments Off

Schools for the Future?

Schools for the Future?

I met some great teenagers this week, when I was taken on a tour of a “decant school” in Birmingham. I’ve never heard the term before but , as you’d imagine , it means moving an entire school into temporary accomodation.

birmingham 1

When I was 13 , the back of my school was torn down and I remember the misery and disruption caused by moving into huts on the netball courts for twelve months . I didn’t mind missing netball but hated the cramped, cold classrooms and though it never crossed my mind at the time, it must have been really stressful for those taking exams.

In Birmingham the temporary school for 800 students was assembled in just 12 weeks.

Their old school is screened off by hoardings but these are covered with a printed artwork by Karen Osbourne, featuring many of the children themselves.


It’s the biggest in Europe. And the grey drizzle was no deterrent to showing it off to me.

Although your first impression is a huge wall of  grey boxes, piled on top of each other, inside it’s a different story. The temporary building is already giving staff and students a taste of how their new school will work.

The temporary school was assembled in just 12 weeks

The temporary school was assembled in just 12 weeks

The students were enthusiastic about the  new technology, the bright white science labs and the sheer amount of space ; each year group has it’s own flexible common area . They said they felt motivated by the sense of investment. Results  seem to back this up. The Head said normally you’d expect  exam results to  dip but they’ve already seen a 20% overall increase in grades and 6% increase in A-C grades including English and Maths.

And this is just one school . Over the next 15 years, every secondary school in the city will be rebuilt or refurbished. The plans are ambitious – schools will become the hub of communities, companies involved in the building works will be a rich source of jobs and work experience placements and the hope is that entire communities will be regenerated.


19 October 2009 Comments Off

The high tech foot

The high tech foot

I’ve just had a fantastic experience visiting a family engineering firm. Blatchfords make artificial limbs and they’ve been going for over 119 years. They’ve just won Product of the Year in the Engineering Awards  for  their latest hydraulic foot which the judges said  was closer than anyone has ever gone before to being able to replicate the human joint.


The firm were extraordinary and clearly inspire loyalty – not only are there many long term memebers of staff but customers volunteer themselves for trials so they can try out the very latest technology. Kelvin, who lost his leg in a motorcycle accident 7 years ago is one of those happy customers – and showed me how tiny adjustments make all the difference.


He arrived on a motorbike and was off to compete in a competition at the weekend, so his accident hasn’t got in the way of his passion for bikes.

15 October 2009 Comments Off


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