Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Learning Trough

Councils are rightly concerned that democratic oversight and scrutiny are largely absent from the way in which the new Academies spend their government largesse. The problem is that they are run by the same venal, mediocre and self serving public servants who ran schools under tight Council financial control, but who are now free to feed their sense of entitlement with outrageous splurging on luxury hotels, first class travel and Michelin-starred meals, booze and incidentals from the text book budget.  

You'd think the fools of civil servants at the Education Department would have learnt. I watched the first wave of BSF schools go up - I rejected all attempts to get us involved in building them, though. Designers were given free rein to pad their portfolios with all the prone-to-failure crap, over-budget indulgence and onanistic self-regard they could imagine; we got atriums, internal rainwater pipes, hidden gutters, masses of glass, innovative cladding, sustainable energy systems. Gullible and credulous school staff who shouldn't have been allowed to oversee the tuck shop were easily taken in.

The classrooms cost on average 220% of the standard classroom floor area cost to pay for the bling and the crap. And now all those nasty little experiments are failing; atriums are unusable wind-blasted vortex traps, the internal downpipes leak, making whole areas unusable; the hidden gutters were never cleaned, got filled with leaves and the sodden wet roofs are collapsing, the glass in the walls made classrooms unusable whenever the sun shone blinding the white-board and creating poorly ventilated sweat-boxes, the glass in the roofs leaks, the innovative cladding is falling off and the sustainable energy systems are so unreliable and prone to failure that some schools have converted to oil boilers just to stay open.  And masses of semi-competent designers made stacks of money.  

I suppose you can't blame the Academy staff. They are the vicars and canons in a ecclesiastic mess of pre-reformation corruption, greed and venality of which the university vice-chancellors are the bloated, mega-rich abbots, their mouths stuffed with tax gold, drawing salaries that dwarf the Prime Minister's, replete with the sort of status, wealth and privilege that accrues to the successful bosses of multinationals. Once they have has their fill of business class air travel to attend conferences in the Maldives their narcissism and vanity will compel them to build. It always does. I predict a new wave of bankrupt Academies each with a half-built library block, swimming pool or theatre which will not now be called the Arthur Scroggs Wing because said Arthur Scroggs in now himself in 'B' wing doing a four-stretch for theft and fraud.


Dave_G said...

Never understood the need or requirement for form over function in any example of public building. Given that it's taxpayers money there should be a law to ensure that it is spent in the most effective and cost-efficient manner.

The 'value' of buildings lies in the land they occupy and not their appearance - Holyrood being a good example of property you wouldn't pay a 'penny' for should it ever come onto the market.

Government as a whole needs to be compelled to operate in a manner designed to minimise expenditure and maximise efficiency with DIRECT CONSEQUENCES for failure - their current disregard for such and corresponding lack of responsibility has been a total betrayal of the taxpayer.

I'd hold out hope that the coming economic catastrophe will change peoples minds about how slack our attention has been to these matters so far but Government tends to degenerate the longer it is in existence so we're probably watching the end of the old, and the start of the new, cycle of waste.

The English Physician said...

I guess much of your criticism applies also to PFI hospitals for the NHS?

Anonymous said...

Can't fault you there lad, aye to all of it!


Raised on the outskirts of a major northern city, I guess we were fairly OK - school buildings weren't great but they were dry and heated in winter - sort of, no computers just chalk and dusty roller boards. what we did have though, were, degree level, individualistic quality teachers. Where, what, why did it all go so wrong, cue Tony Crosland and the scum party/Tories.

What fixes my mind, no matter what the school, no matter of what it is fashioned....if.

If, the pedagogues are predominantly of female form and also, how can you impart knowledge being personally innumerate, illiterate and to boot Cultural Marxist zealots?

Thus, schools even if the corridor walls are of precious Italian marble, the desks are carved mahogany, the appointments are made of gold, what does, indeed, what can the pupil gain, if their masters/mistresses are closed mind nitwits?

We observe in the morning light, circa 08.30 the lost souls, shambling round town centres, carefully carrying their water bottles, back pack, so many uncaring and oblivious, always stressed and unsmiling their vacant stares. My heart weeps, and in the same instant the sight, it makes my skin crawl - what devilry is all of this? and [why] did we allow it to come to pass.....
For sure, it's a re creation of some Fritz Lang feature on diazapam. Of, a future damned, of hopelessness and the results are plain to us, on the streets and nigh every day.

The EU-UK Internationalist corporate blob spits them out and takes the better educated Polish/Slovak/Hungarian version, the PTB-state brainwashes them - dumbed out, no education, no chance.

Call him what you like, but at least Michael Gove understood, and note well, see what the Tories did to him.

Raedwald said...

TEP - PFI has a raft of other issues, but paradoxically defective design (rather than costly design) is unlikely to be among them when the PFI deal is DBFO (design, build, finance, operate)- because the PFI consortium has to maintain and keep the buildings working for quite a long period following construction, it's in their interest to build the best possible quality to minimise their maintenance costs - the capital cost is all charged to the NHS. Under PFI, absolutely nothing is too good for the taxpayer to pay for!

The first round of BSF was essentially just direct govt funding of sexy new schools - it was still the job of the school / LEA to maintain, service & repair them post-build.

Later rounds of BSF learnt lessons and DID impose cost limits and standard layouts - halving the cost of new schools. But many of the Blair / Brown era lemons are crumbling ... and at least 4 have already been (quietly) demolished.

Demetrius said...

But we were told it was good for economic growth and employment.

Anonymous said...

We've got one near where I live called 'Ocean Academy'. The roof started leaking the first time it rained after opening. The gutters were running the wrong way and two of them met each other over the main entrance. There's so much bullshit going on these days. You know I'm finding it harder and harder to believe that my town was once a major embarkation point for the D-Day landings.


Thud said...

Ah, internal pipes and hidden gutters, a favourite of Victorian and Georgian builders too. I've spent quite a bit of time,energy and curses putting them right.

Michael said...

When Jack Catchpole (East Sussex) and Colin Stansfield-Smith (Hampshire), were County Architects, there was a real pride in their work back in the sixties and seventies.

Not for them the extravagances of the details you describe, but they made a working building, sometimes under the restraints of systems like SEAC, but at least they designed proper places where kids could learn.

I've had my fill of 'modern' architecture, but then, having been a builder of sorts all my life, I never really understood what made that particular race tick.

County architects back then really did take a humble responsibility very seriously.

TrT said...

"I predict a new wave of bankrupt Academies each with a half-built library block, swimming pool or theatre"

If only, with an ever growing school age population, and a lack of consumer choice, academies will be kept going on life support, with 45 children in rooms designed for 25, and half the budget spent on interest payments. Students go where they are sent, and thats that.

Its nothing new, in the late 90s, my community high school was buying its IT on ten year finance plans. Its "Electronic Registration System" was bought with a 20 year finance and service package.

James Higham said...

The classrooms cost on average 220% of the standard classroom floor area cost to pay for the bling and the crap.

True but the principle is good. What principle has any govt been able to follow properly anyway?

Anonymous said...

Excellent article about the corruption caused by the privatisation of education in this country.