A High Court judge ruled that Michael Gove abused his powers when he axed BSF projects for six local authorities
“Wasteful and bureaucratic” were the words education secretary Michael Gove MP used when he announced the demise of Building Schools for the Future (BSF). I was working with Accessible Futures Ltd and Northgate at the time of the election, supporting Kent County Council as it sought to modernise a group of special schools.
We were working with several special schools, each of which had its own distinctive problems. There was Foreland, a special school for children with complex and profound difficulties. Because of the nature of their disabilities, some children die before they finish their schooling at Foreland and one of the sensitive organisational challenges facing the BSF team was how to relocate their ashes to the new school grounds. Is this what Gove meant by wasteful and bureaucratic?
St Anthony’s School caters for students aged 5-16 with a range of behavioural, emotional, social and learning difficulties. They had a good ratio of computers to children but needed robust laptops for the children who have dyspraxia or might misuse computers on a bad day. Laleham Gap School is the county’s specialist provision for high functioning pupils aged 3-16 with autistic spectrum disorders or speech and language disorders and has a residential unit for those children who cannot go home.
There I was writing an article for Special Children on acoustics and all of a sudden the government made an announcement. Maybe I should try writing about world peace next time. Anyway, I learnt a lot about the issues of acoustics, especially in new buildings which seem to favour large open spaces, glass, concrete and busy areas for people to congregate in. These large echoey spaces make it hard for deaf pupils but also cause problems for kids who are learning English or those learning a foreign language who need to hear pronunciation very clearly. The National Deaf Children’s Society has been pressing for better buildings. Then there was Sir Alan Steer’s report which shows that poor acoustics are one of the causes of bad behaviour. Kids can’t hear, don’t pay attention and find something else to do in the classroom. We’ve all seen it happen.
Despite the overwhelming body of evidence that acoustics matter, the head teachers I have spoken to recently said they did not want to spend their money on improving acoustics. Then, almost out of the blue, last Friday -16th October- the government issued a press release, ‘Acoustic testing to be made compulsory in all Building Schools for the Future projects.’ Yep that will do nicely.
Last night I stayed at the Walpole Bay Hotel and Museum. I was in Margate for my new work for Accessible Futures Limited. Now Margate is very fashionable with the media at the moment. Think of The Apprentice with Howard and James trying to rebrand it as a gay resort and think of the Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi. I loved the episode where she and the hotel owner, Jane Bishop, battled it out. Honours were equally divided. Jane kept her ‘personal fiefdom’ intact and, while Alex did not grow to love the dismembered dolls, she did come to appreciate the values of this very quirky hotel.
So, last night I stayed in this lovely building which opened for business in 1914 and reflects the fashions and values of that era. I had a huge room with an old style gas fire and authentic sash windows which rattled all night as the winds came of the sea.
I slept in a high comfy bed with sheets which smelt as if they were fresh out of an old fashioned laundry. I wandered round the displays – photos, clothes, bric a brac -and went up and down in a lift which had the old style double metal mesh doors. This morning I finished my stay with sausage, egg and mushrooms in the restaurant which adjoins the veranda.
I’m back there on Wednesday night. It could become my new second home.
It’s official! I have a new job. I am now an associate with a brand new company, Accessible Futures Ltd – ‘the new name in SEN ICT consultancy within Building Schools for the Future’. I will be working with special schools, local authorities, bidders and builders on BSF projects. Accessible Futures Ltd might not make the world a better place but, with a bit of luck, we can make some schools a better place for kids with disabilities.
The company is the brainchild of John Liddle who was Head of Services to Education at AbilityNet. He has a strong background in Higher Ed as well as in assessment, technology and BSF. So far he has signed us up to work with Wolverhampton and Kent and there are ongoing conversations with other parties.
Have a look at the site http://www.accessiblefutures.co.uk/index.html It tells you all about the company and has a picture of me with new short hair cut for the autumn and John in work mode.