Tower Hamlets Building Schools for the Future (BSF)
The Tower Hamlets Building Schools foTower for the Future (BSF) programme led by the contractor Bouygues UK is delivering a large number of school construction and refurbishment projects at high speed. Cambridge Education has been on board since the start, initially supporting the development of two sample schemes during the procurement competition, and now as the education advisors to the Tower Hamlets local education partnership.
Following the successful sample scheme bids at Bethnall Green and St Paul’s Way in 2007, the next phase of work began in earnest in January 2009. Cambridge Education are now working in close partnership with the LEP to develop the final four schools in the third wave of BSF programme
Tower Hamlets is a very challenging area of London’s former dockland, with a very large Islamic community and others facing considerable deprivation, living between the wealth of the City and still more conspicuous wealth of Canary Wharf. The schools vary in their attainment. Many are highly successful, with strong leadership delivering some remarkable results such as Sir John Cass, Morpeth, Oaklands and Ian Mikardo Special school.
Cambridge Education has worked across a wide range of schools: from high performing, outstanding special schools to those in National Challenge (a programme of support to secure sustainable higher standards in all secondary schools). The consultancy team has explored concepts of personalised learning, curriculum reform, and independent learning.
During the process, Cambridge Education, London Borough of Tower Hamlets and Bouygues UK have evolved their ways of working. For the initial follow-on schemes the design process was very much focused on architectural concepts, but the process evolved to become more educationally-led.
It became clear to the consultancy team that as a school’s thinking developed, the building design needed to change to keep up with this evolving vision. By working closely with the schools, Cambridge Education has been able to review, discuss and thrash out new, viable and affordable briefs for the school.
This approach has demonstrated the value of educationally-led design: a series of smaller meetings with senior school leadership at which their vision and curriculum requirements can be properly discussed and progressively turned into a clear Education Brief for the architects, without attractive graphics, models and excessive numbers of attendees getting in the way.
Innovation has continued to be a feature in the delivery of this partnership. For the third batch of follow-on schemes the use of the ‘Studio for Schools’ model establishes a team approach on two levels: firstly providing a forum for developing new architectural practices able to bring in new ideas from sectors outside of education, but with a consistent quality of approach; and secondly a design review board to champion the architectural, educational and sustainability outcomes for the project, both architecturally and educationally. Cambridge Education are a member of the design board panel.