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The Education Building: The Development of School Design

Part 1 Dissertation 2009
Joanne Macey
University of Kent, UK
The format, delivery and availability of official government publications has changed greatly over the years. With the development of the internet, information and advice on school design building is more readily available to all and aimed not only at the designer, architect or Local Authority, but the clients and end users as well, allowing more input from these different stakeholders than before. Yet it is interesting to find that topics discussed in publications over fifty years ago are still relevant today and in some cases are only just being realised.

This dissertation examines the development of school design from the post war era to the current ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme today. It looks at how government documentation and guidelines have influenced the design of schools and the changes in education have influenced the design of school buildings in general.
Through the comparison of St. Anselm’s Secondary School; a school founded in 1964, typical of the time, using prefabricated construction methods with a standardised plan; with the Langley Academy, completed in 2008, a new type of school designed under the BFS programme; many changes can be seen yet issues from the post-war era still arise.

Joanne Macey

The examiners found that this dissertation particularly distinguished in that it succeeded in encompassing not only primary research but also a great deal of personal experience and empathy.

The writer was educated at a 1960s school of characteristic type (designed, in fact, by a diocesan surveyor but following the methodology of much contemporary local authority design), and set out to investigate why it looked as it did.

The resulting dissertation demonstrated discernment in the selection of material, which was for the most part official reports and guidelines on the design of schools, both in terms of the scope of these documents, and also in terms of their chronology.

From these, the dissertation projects a developing sense of changing values in school design, and in the way in which over time earlier objectives were reassessed, but, significantly, also the way in which the whole way of writing about school architecture has itself changed – in its aims, in its authorship, in its presentation and in its style. This in itself projects a narrative on changing priorities; in particular the substitution of social aims for technical ones, and suggests that the writer is aware that the subject covered could have been taken in a number of different directions.

The fact that the complex story of the way in which English state school design was developed emerges; in essence, from a relatively short dissertation is a reflection of the way in which this writer has chosen source material with delicacy and efficiency.

The examiners found the writing style to be matured and stylish well judged and efficiently paced; the writer expressed a personal, but also a professional voice; and overall presentation of the work was of a high standard.

Dr. Timothy Brittain-Catlin
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