Worrying news from Old Blighty

Published: Thursday 31 January 2013

Spare a thought for our antipodal colleagues in what appears to be a steady regression from innovation in the UK. The closure of two important institutions CABE and the BCSE are not isolated from recent regressive steps from the Department of Education.
The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) was closed in late 2010 due to funding cuts. CABE was a quango that championed well-designed buildings, spaces and places, ran public campaigns and provided expert, practical advice. Now gone.

Similarly, the British Council for School Environments has just been closed (January 2013), also due to a lack of funding. The school design advisory group had operated since 2006 and was a guiding light in advancing contemporary education and a great promoter of innovative thinking and participatory design processes.

These closures reflect the shift in the UK education environment where it appears they are experiencing a steady reversion from their previously progressive course. Refer to The Guardian newspaper article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/dec/31/michael-gove-rebellion-no-curves-schools

Hard on the heels of the Department for Education dramatically winding back its school capital works programs, the UK Education Secretary is now actively promoting "no-frills" buildings including simplified templates and banning of curves in buildings. And this after years of exemplary research and innovative programs such as the Faraday research project, the Faraday schools and the DfES "Schools for the Future" program. Still, it is pleasing to see in the report that teachers, Architects and even the RIBA itself are all joining the chorus of dissent! All strength to their arm.

In the wake of such a long and innovative development of their education system, this all adds up to sobering news indeed. It also reinforces the critical need to continue the push for innovative schools and to ensure that the tide of progress in this country does not recede. It goes without saying that the role of CEFPI is increasingly important in sustaining constructive progress!

Richard Leonard
Director, Hayball

CEFPI Australasia Chair Elect