A dying school?
Normally when I read the Exc-el blogs it's a quick glance to see if anything in East Lothian's diary affects me. Today I read a post that caught my eye and made me read on. Angus McRury is the Head Teacher at Innerwick Primary School, a rural school if ever there was one. In Cold Comfort he's worried at this time of year that his school will not be populated with enough kids to keep going. "Are we a dying school?" he asks, several times. He also seems to feel that no matter what the school does to attract new kids they still won't come, especially since the Grammar school in the main town will be opening a nursery section, taking away even more of his own school's population.
I have to admit that this presents a problem for those teachers featured in David Warlick's end-of-year podcast ("Our classrooms are irrelevant, not obsolete!"), some of whose visions of the schools of the future do not take account of the dynamic that exists in a rural school - or any school building, for that matter. Successful schools are built on the ethos that runs through the corridors. Unsuccessful schools fail on the threatening atmosphere that can run through their corridors. In a small rural school times that by 10. At least.
So what of a school where there are no physical corridors, but the IT-led virtual corridors hinted at in Warlick's New Year post and many thereafter? I don't think it can work, and reading Cold Comfort will show any IT leader not just how important people's face-to-face interactions are but also how important the ethos of a group of people is.
If you've ever heard me speaking in public you may wonder if this is not a contradiction of what I have been getting at. It might just be that. I have said that the school of the future will not be based around walls. That might be the case for some students, still, but for a large number that group dynamic of eating together, playing together, having some banter with their teacher in the corridor, taking part in a lunchtime club or just saying 'hi' to their favourite teachers in the corridor is lifeblood and you can't take it away or replace that with a computer or PDA. Not even with a blog.
Is your school dying, Angus? I don't think it will or ever should. It might get smaller physically but it is the growing microcosm of safety, happiness and productive learning that is important here.
UPDATE: See the VERY interesting reply from the Head of Education, Don. I think this is impressive for a 'superintendant'. How many Head Teachers (Angus) and Heads of Education (Don) blog like this?