A grove, not Gove – the primary school with nature at its heart

Wintringham primary academy, St Neots You won’t find any little rows of government-sanctioned classroom cells at this new Cambridgeshire primary school, whose bright, timber-built design lets the outdoors in It shouldn’t be controversial that schools should be well designed: that the spaces where much of everyone’s childhoods are spent should, as a minimum, be well lit, well proportioned and well planned; that there should be signs of care and glimmers of human spirit in their design and construction; that there might be reminders of nature in the materials and the views out. Even if narrow educational outcomes are your only concern, there’s evidence that these are helped by the quality of school environments. This point should not be lost, in particular, on a government whose members, in many cases, experienced the handsome architecture of private schools and Oxbridge colleges. But lost it is. Ever since 2014, when Michael Gove was secretary of state for education, new school buildings have been subject to functionalist documents called Building Bulletins. These state, with as much aspiration and joy-in-learning as the instructions for a dishwasher, exactly how much floorspace is allotted per child, how much storage and other ancillary space, and what are the optimal layouts of zones. Continue reading...

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