In line with the thinking of the Principal, the Head of the Senior School (HSS) was keen to have a space suited to young adult learning, one that provided the space for them to become more self-managing. The HSS saw Years 11 and 12 as a time of transition into tertiary studies, and coupled with the new timetable which provided “flex” lessons once a cycle, saw the new spaces as transformational. Students were expected to become more responsible for their use of time at school and the open collaborative space concept was integral to this. The HSS found students wanted to replicate what they had in the former senior school quarters – a precinct that was theirs, to which they had aspired since entering the school. Too much change would change what they were to inherit – an interesting concept! The HSS perceived their ideas to be on the whole, very conservative. As the principal had said, they only could reproduce what they knew, and they were fiercely possessive of the precinct.
Students who were consulted at the design stage were, according to all members of the design team to whom I spoke (a very common thread), extremely conservative, resistant to any innovative ideas such as glass walls, and wanted everything painted beige or white. When shown glass walls they wanted blinds. The principal and HSS were “underwhelmed” when attempting to get students involved in the aesthetic aspects of the build. A compromise was made with the glass walls of the classroom, with decals covering approximately one third of the wall. The teachers who were to have offices in the building were even more resistant, citing privacy issues. The Principal offered all departments the opportunity to move into the classrooms as home rooms, but only one took it up. That department wanted to move out of the current office space they had, and this was the perfect opportunity.
Teachers using the classrooms have been ambivalent. Pleasing aspects include the smart new furniture, the lovely social environment, the view and the majesty of the building itself. It has grandeur, said one English teacher. At the same time many members of the staff, the English staff particularly, felt they weren’t consulted enough and their opinion was not valued. Negatives included the lift being locked and the key accessible only from one person, the windows which don’t open as the heating and cooling are completely automatic, no matter how cold/ hot the actual people are, brilliant IT but limited access as the AV person is part-time, and there are no available devices as we are moving to a BYOD programme next year. The steps are too narrow to the first floor, it is too noisy as the sound carries through the void, and students are easily distracted in the learning commons.