Worst idea ever: UK school does away with playgrounds

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

It doesn’t take much to get me in rant mode these days—not sure why that is, I’m normally all sweetness and light.
But here’s a story that has really got me seething. It turns out that a new school, Thomas Deacon Academy in the UK has been built… without a playground.

That’s right. There is nowhere for kids to run around, socialise, have their first snog, and illicit cigarette, practice their football skills, bully or be bullied. (Well the last two don’t make my case but anyway).

The head of the school says “This is a massive investment of public money and I think what the public want is maximum learning. They recognise that youngsters can play in their own time, play in their local communities. What I want from my teachers is maximum teaching and I want maximum learning from the youngsters.”

You don’t get that from stopping them playing and socialising. The school calls it ‘university style’ teaching and learning. Well, I don’t think I’ve ever come across anything like that in my experience of universities. Visit the school’s website and read the list of ‘facilities’. It sounds like the Panopticon, with no privacy for anyone, students or teachers. I bet you the first thing that happens is the wonderful glass walls will get covered up with work to let people get on with learning without being stared at by passers by (although come to think of it, when would anyone be passing by to look at classes taking place? Won’t they all be in class at the same time?)

This is a stupid idea and whoever dreamt it up should be strung up, along with whoever allowed them to get away with it.
There are two main reasons why I think this is idiotic:

Firstly, there is a clear link between play and creativity, and creativity is key to good, deep learning. You might be able to learn how to manipulate numbers in a maths lesson, but you need to be really creative to get them to do amazing things like predicting what will happen when a rocket takes off at a certain time, velocity and direction—will it reach Saturn or will it burn up in the Sun? Well who cares with that, so long as you pass your exams and make the school look good.

Secondly, has no one told these people about childhood obesity? When are these kids going to get any exercise? What are they going to do between classes? When are they going to burn off excess energy? How are teachers going to cope with kids who have been made to sit with their heads in books or in front of computer screens all day?

I can think of lots more reasons too. I bet you no great artists, musicians or designers will come out of this school, and I’d be surprised if there were any great engineers, writers, politicians, teachers, aid workers, or medics either. And that’s despite the wonderful-looking photos on the website. You can have all the ‘interactive plasma screens’ in the world, but they don’t guarantee anyone’s going to learn anything.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Here’s the story. Worth reading and spitting your cornflakes all over the floor.

Incidentally, the school’s website has a wonderful artist’s impression with loads of kids sitting outside on the grass… next to a motorway by the looks of things. Looks like even the illustrated fake kids don’t want to go in to a school without a playground.

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