Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 31 May 2007

Why build a new school with no playground? Surely even secondary school children need to let of steam?

Hillary's Advice

Almost certainly for the same reason that people have built stonking new schools with corridors too narrow for pupils to pass, and classrooms too stuffy for them to breathe in. A sheer failure to grasp of what a school is about.

The project manager for this new school in Peterborough has explained that the school is huge, and a proportionally huge playground would be impossible to police for racism and bullying.

But how the heart sinks at everything in that sentence: a big school; a giant tarmac playpen; rampant racism and bullying….

Good schools are places where students are respected, feel at home, and know exactly what is expected in terms of behaviour and hard work. And a good school will know that its students need fresh air and time to decompress, and will give them nice places to do it in, in the full expectation that most of them will behave properly while out there, and that the small minority who don’t will have to be dealt with accordingly.

The other city academy that was built without a playground soon had to add one in, as one of a number of moves to address its entrenched problems. Why don’t we ever learn? Probably because of the sheer amount of hubris washing around multi-million pound school projects like this one. And the way that the children often seem to get lost sight of, in the process. In fact it often seems as if the avalanche of money that is pouring into these flagship schools is washing away all common sense.