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.
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 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.