The School I'd Like: Children and Young People's Reflections on an Education for the 21st Century

The School I'd Like: Children and Young People's Reflections on an Education for the 21st Century

The School I'd Like: Children and Young People's Reflections on an Education for the 21st Century

The School I'd Like: Children and Young People's Reflections on an Education for the 21st Century

Synopsis

Do our schools really meet the needs of children and young people today? In 2001, The Guardian launched a competition called The School I'd Like, in which young people were asked to imagine their ideal school. This vibrant, groundbreaking book presents material drawn from that competition, offering a unique snapshot of perceptions of today's schools by those who matter most - the pupils. The book is wonderfully illuminated by children's essays, stories, poems, pictures and plans. Placing their views in the centre of the debate, it provides an evaluation of the democratic processes involved in teaching and learning by: * identifying consistencies in children's expressions of how they wish to learn * highlighting particular sites of 'disease' in the education system today * illustrating how the built environment is experienced by today's children * posing questions about the reconstruction of teaching and learning for thenbsp;twenty-first century. This book offers a powerful new perspective on school reform and will be essential reading for all those involved in education and childhood studies, including teachers, advisors, policy-makers, academics, and anyone who believes that children's voices should not be ignored.

Excerpt

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Former editor of the Education Guardian

As editor of the Guardian's Education supplement I was used to politicians, pundits and press releases all claiming to offer the solution to some educational 'problem' or other. But nothing could have prepared me for this. 'The School I'd Like' competition unleashed the most imaginative and provocative challenges to our education system I had seen. And they all came from children. We launched the competition after Catherine Burke sent a letter asking for help with a project she was running. She wanted to hear what children felt about their schooling, and wondered if we knew about a competition our sister paper, the Observer, had run in 1967 asking children to design the school of their dreams. I dug out the original from the archives, and was immediately persuaded to run the competition again. The entries would be given to the School of Education at the University of Leeds, thereby creating an archive of children's views on education. The 1967 competition attracted almost 1,000 entries. We did not expect to get as many.

We worried that the pressures of a national curriculum would prevent teachers and pupils reflecting on what was wrong with the way things were, or 'wasting time' by planning for the seemingly impossible. We were wrong; with their teachers' help, thousands of children from hundreds of schools found time to dream.

Few proposed no school, though many wanted less school and every child wanted a better school. Some ideas appeared the stuff of pure fantasy: a school in a submarine, with waterproof maps of the underwater world; private helicopters to fly children to France for double French; voice-activated pencils. Others seemed more prosaic: swimming pools, a jug of water in every classroom; enough books and computers to go round; chill-out rooms. But all the ideas went some way to answering the really important questions about education: what is good about schools today, and what could be improved? How can we turn schools into places where children happily go, and are able to learn? And what is education for anyway?

Some people will no doubt dismiss their criticisms as trivial, as merely reflecting the silly preoccupations of children. They would be wrong. Take toilets, for example. Nearly every entry mentioned them. They were smelly and dirty and the locks never worked. They wished that paper and soap were provided so they could wash their hands. But who says this is a trivial issue? Several thoroughly 'grown-up' studies have shown that unpleasant toilets encourage bullying and contribute to truancy. Worse, they show a disregard for the dignity of pupils.

'Respect' was the single word that occurred most; it was what the children wanted, but felt they didn't get. They were forced to do work they weren't

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