Telford students get involved in designing their new school

The Lord Silkin School students started their introduction to design with a tour of architecturally-significant and thought-provoking buildings in Birmingham, organised by MADE.

They had the strongest and most positive reactions to Fort Dunlop, a renovated industrial building, and Summerfield Eco Neighbourhood, where a housing association has converted 100-year old houses into low-energy homes. Here, they were absorbed by the energy efficiency centre, wanting to know more about coconut-fibre carpets, sheep’s wool insulation and light wells. We also visited Bournville ('too controlling'), Castle Vale, and Selfridges ('wow').

Back at the school, the group of ten student  – two from each year -  worked on design principles with interior designer Sue Hope and Bournville Architect Ian Tipton. They used Design Quality Indicators to assess the quality of the current school site, and ‘mood boards’ to explore emotional reactions to design. They researched sustainable building techniques, and went on a site visit to a proposed new housing development in Telford to investigate ground conditions and topography. And for an end-of-term celebration, they worked with Sue Hope in her studio to design and create a glass artwork for the new building.

This project goes beyond working alongside professionals to design the new school. It is also about students receiving positive feedback and enjoying school, and working in small groups to build confidence and communication skills. It is about being exposed to new ideas to raise aspirations and having “more challenging work and interesting activities in lessons that involve [students] in discussions [to] make faster progress in learning” (OFSTED recommendation, 2007).