With so many new international schools being built, pausing to take a look at recent school design is time well spent. Over the last two months we have been doing just that – talking to architects, designers and teachers involved in contemporary school design for this special edition of ITM.
Things are changing.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to be a member of a team designing a new school (or a new space in an old school) you’ll know what an exhilarating experience it is. You really have to think about your teaching and the kind of learning that you want to happen in the spaces you are helping to create. Working with the professionals who design schools opens up a whole new perspective about what a school is and what it can be. It is the ultimate in professional collaboration with some of the most creative people in the world.
Approaches to school design have come such a long way in the last thirty years – and half the fun is finding out about what other people have been doing and the problems they have solved along the way. The elegant solutions being put into practice can be breathtaking.
Two worlds coming together
What struck us is how the world of the educator and the world of the architect have combined in order to create some amazing new spaces. Everyone we spoke to emphasised the importance of listening to each other. There is an almost universal emphasis on sustainable, green design and a deep desire for students and teachers to enjoy the environment in which they work.
The influence of early pioneers is also profound and far-reaching. You don’t have to be a Reggio Emilia devotee to believe that a school environment can be ‘the third teacher’. In many ways, this now just seems to be common sense.
Don’t hesitate – get involved!
Our February edition is an opportunity to have a look at some of the ideas out there and to get a flavour of how architects and educators are working together.
And if you do get a chance to play a part in an educational design team don’t let it pass you by.
Imagine an international school without a school library. It’s expected. It’s assumed and it’s possibly taken for granted. Whatever the size of the school or the student profile, there will be a library. And there will be a school librarian.
As I have been finding out over the last year in a variety of networking sessions, international school librarians arrive at their posts in different ways. Some are specialists with a degree or professional diploma in librarianship. Others are teachers ‘filling in’ but who love it so much they stay. If they are able to, they get the funding to retrain. Others are volunteers from the parent body or the local community.
They are all likely to have several things in common: a love of books, a sense that libraries are ‘special places’ and a desire to share their passion with others. They all need our support, as the demands on their time are huge. Whatever their background, librarians are expected to be teachers, administrators, counsellors, IT geeks, babysitters, community leaders and storytellers. They are a breed apart and without them a school will just not have a soul.
And the library itself? It will be a hub, both ‘buzzy’ and quiet, packed with students, adults and families – reading, researching, listening, taking five or volunteering.
This month, ITM celebrates international school libraries, their librarians and reading with articles by Mary Rose Grieve, Sal Flint, Rob George and Helen Mulligan. Whether you are a librarian, teacher, leader, student or parent, our message is clear: support your school library!
British and International School Libraries Network
And if you are a member of a school library team, you can go one step further. Rob George and Sal Flint have joined with Consilium Education and ITM to start the British and International Schools Library Network.
Why not join Rob and Sal in their next networking and training webinar on Wednesday March 6th when they will be looking at Libraries and Wellbeing.
Find out more about BISLN and the next PD and Networking webinar on March 6th with Sal and Rob here:
I cannot begin to imagine a school without music. Any school, whatever the age range. Music is as important to 18 year olds as it is to 3 year olds, not to mention all the adults in the school community.
The sound of a choir in rehearsal, of a class enjoying a music lesson, of a band practice, of a pianist and director putting performers through their paces as they all prepare for the latest production, are among the most evocative sounds associated with a school.
It’s true, in general you’ll find a lot of music going on in most international schools.
And yet, do we value music education as we should? It is rarely seen at the centre of the curriculum and although it is regarded as a major component of an extra-curricular programme, music during the school day has become a diminishing experience for many children as they grow older.
Few secondary schools would expect many of their students to choose a university course that would include the study of music.
The idea of music as a ‘luxury subject’ for a handful of extremely talented older students who have somehow managed to fit in a course of instrumental tuition on top of their other studies surely does not serve the majority of our students well. The International Baccalaureate has of course done a great deal to keep the Arts as an essential part of a well-balanced curriculum for children of all ages and this should be applauded. International Educators might also take note of the powerful new preuniversity courses emerging from the UK offered by the University of the Arts, London (UAL).
But surely, all children deserve – and need – more access to a music education than they have now. This is no nostalgic aspiration harking back to a pre-national curriculum ‘golden age’ of music in schools. It is an urgent and modern need. Music affects people in powerful ways. In times when we are increasingly concerned about student and staff wellbeing, music has the power to uplift and inspire. If we are concerned about physical health, it has the ability to get people moving, and, as has been increasingly shown (think of recent TV favourites like The Choir or The Piano) to have a unique ability to bring people together in a wide range of social experiences – in choirs, in bands, in church and simply as individuals enjoying a day out who encounter a street performer and find themselves as part of an impromptu audience on a station concourse. You can see the smiles.
A good musical education enriches the lives not only of music specialists who go onto to become professioanl performers but also of the rest of us who become their audience. The more we experience music, the more we can be transported by the emotion of a musical moment or transfixed by a performer’s skill, because we have ‘had a go’ at playing an instrument, however badly and have come to appreciate just how wonderful their performance is.
This month ITM takes a special look at music. The authors of three articles in our first edition of 2023 – 24 highlight its special qualities and in effect invite us to re-evaluate music as one of the most important 21st Century subject areas. The connection between music and resilience is powerfully demonstrated by Anna Azarova when she looks back over 2022 – 23 as experienced by the British International School of Ukraine, while Martin Barraclough, Director of Music at Cranleigh School Abu Dhabi examines the importance of music for developing wider academic skills. Finally, Jordan Laidlow and Dr. Winston Wuttenee tell the compelling story of how music is playing a critical role in facilitating social and cultural reconciliation in Canadian schools..
Music. It’s powerful stuff. Let’s get as much of it into our schools as we can!