This month, we’re delighted to say we have expanded our popular regular feature highlighting the work of members of the UK education suppliers’ trade body BESA, to hear from ANDY BAINES, Founder of Planet BOFA; DEMCO INTERIORS, provider of library interiors and products; ANTHONY COXON of GCSEPod; and ActivPanel supplier PROMETHEAN.

Student consultation shaping interior design

Is there a perfect storm brewing or are we

already in the eye of it? There is nothing more frightening at the moment than the very real horror story of funding in education. This is exactly where EdTech rides in on its white horse – says ANTHONY COXON of GCSEPod.

Talking to the editor of a leading magazine focussed on people building or renovating their homes, I was interested to know what drives people to spend months if not years on their dream ‘Grand Designs’ project, overcoming huge challenges and so much stress. His reply was that the one thing they always say is that they have a vision of themselves living in the new home, using the space, seeing their children playing, cooking in the kitchen, sitting around a table etc and it’s this vision of ‘how life will be’ in their new home that keeps them going. We think it is worth applying this ‘homeowner’ approach to the

design of a library or teaching space. The idea of ‘visioning’ a space is very strong and is a powerful exercise when we talk to librarians and teachers. The evolution of furniture design means that we can now ‘flex furnishings’ to include built-in power and charging, castors for flexibility, tilting tops, nesting, space to spread out, pods for private to collaborative working and many more. Creative space planning means we can create interior designs that are made up of any number of micro-environments. However, the real detail is in the physical and emotional use of the space. Young people are aware of their own health and wellbeing and, if we listen to what they have to say, we can bring a holistic approach to the design and furnishing of the interior. The best spaces are created when students are not overlooked but

asked what they would like. We recently carried out a consultation with secondary school students and were surprised at what they had to say. A tip: if you’re carrying out your own consultation, it’s important to translate what they ‘say’ into what they ‘mean’ so that you see the bigger picture. They may say, ‘we would like to be able to eat in the library’ but what they actually mean is ‘we’re adults, we’re responsible, we want to be treated in an adult way’. A request for a sleep pod in the library could mean ‘we’re working

very hard, we get tired and stressed so design us an area of the library that’s quieter, in calmer colours, soothing textures, for smaller groups’. It’s important to translate what they say into something which can be rolled out across all areas of the design. What our consultation flagged up was a requirement for nice smells, carpet for quiet, secluded homely areas, no dark corners, plants, good ventilation, nesting areas and much more. Our job as library designers is to combine this insight with our extensive expertise and create spaces that meet the needs of students now and in the future. To some degree, we are talking about bringing the real world into the library and classroom. Consulting with students and allowing them to be more than bystanders in their education means they are invested in the space. We do advocate designing spaces that balance academic, physical and mental wellbeing and support students to live, learn and earn.

uFor more information, visit: 14

There are bold claims that there’s more money in the system than ever before but equally, there are now more pupils than ever before; 8.5 million and growing by 100K per year. The NFF is a significant improvement on the previous system, but the overall level of funding to schools is too low. After the NFF was announced, the reality became clear, that per pupil funding across the board will fall 4.6% by 2020. Is there a perfect storm brewing, or are we already in the eye of it? Some might say that now is not the time to be spending on

EdTech. But for those SLTs in the know, quite the opposite is true as they realise that for maximum impact and with modest outlay, embedding the right technologies with supporting content within the teaching framework might very well save the day, bringing positivity, reducing workload and workplace stress. Supporting staff with these technologies has been shown to

reduce their load, assisting with mental health and wellbeing – the knock-on effect shown through reduced absence as well as addressing the industry’s larger retention and recruitment bête noir. Should these issues be addressed, resulting in staff being more motivated, then the financial burden of the ever-present cost of recruitment could be minimised, releasing funds for other products that work hard for all, for pupils, teachers and the whole school. Tech has changed the way teachers teach – a quote from one of our schools explains this very well:

“Staff worked in teams to include GCSEPod in lesson plans, utilise

it for flipped learning and as a homework task. GCSEPod has become a large part of our day-to-day teaching practices and it has never felt like a bolt on. By working together, we have simultaneously decreased workload while increasing the quality and richness of lessons within the school.” Dr. Kevin Hylands, Principal, The George Eliot School

EdTech is not there to take over but to be an aid. Here at

GCSEPod, we do not seek to replace the teacher but aim to capture the enthusiasm, knowledge and experience of teachers and continue to provide that to students after they’ve left the school gates. Having been in the sector for over 10 years (from before when

‘EdTech’ was a thing), my view is that we are in the eye of the storm, where there is only one way to go – out. The government has finally realised that it is no-longer sustainable to continue to under-fund the NHS – surely it is only a matter of time before it realises the same about education, allowing teachers to make the right decisions to invest in resources that work.

June 2018

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