Engaging Your School Community
Our first commitment is to empower teachers and learners to take an active role in design, so they’re invested in and proud of their school.
That’s why we believe you should use a participation approach - allowing the school community to come up with the initial ideas rather than merely reacting to a preconceived design or agenda. Sharing aspirations gives people a sense of purpose and working together in this way, agreeing priorities and making progress fosters a democratic approach that will give the project credibility in the wider community.
When engaging your school, we recommend our three-stage process.
1. Stimulate debate
Discuss the issues that your project will address and agree priorities - to help create a sense of ownership.
2. Explore the issues
Think more critically about potential problems. In the course of discussions, you’ll progress towards creative solutions. Empower smaller groups by assigning them specific tasks. As your team thinks more about solutions, an outline of your design brief will emerge. Done thoroughly, this stage might take a few weeks but will save time in the long run.
3. Build consensus
Agree findings and recommendations - these will form the basis of your detailed design brief.
Now for the design itself. Your first job will be to appoint a project team to speak on behalf of the school community.
1. Gather a team of people of different ages and views - to build a consensus that’s broad but not too broad as to block decision-making.
2. Once your team is assembled, decide the best time to run your engagement session - perhaps during class time or as an after-school activity.
3. The first time you meet as a group, clearly define the scope and constraints of your project, e.g. ‘We want to redesign our classroom with new colour for more collaboration but only have three weeks and a budget of £500’. That clarity will lead to more practical and creative ideas -you’ll be amazed by the quality of their ideas!
4. Ask your team to work in groups to come up with ideas for the design, demonstrating how they meet the project aims, while supporting their suggestions with research.
5. Consult everyone in your school, so all teachers and pupils are involved - for example, have the project team present to the school, perhaps at an assembly, and distribute a survey to find out which ideas are best received. If necessary, revise your ideas according to the best feedback, but make sure that the wider school community see how their feedback has contributed to the end design
6. To get to this point, you’ll have no doubt done a brilliant job of generating excitement within your school. From here, thoughts should now turn from ideas to how to deliver them. For more advice, get in touch with Smarter Spaces and we’ll do all that we can to help.
Take as many photos as possible at each stage of the process and create a video to share with your school and local community.
Engagement is a valuable exercise but you don’t want to disappoint pupils who think their ideas are being left behind. Be clear up front how children’s ideas will be developed, what’s likely to be delivered, and why some ideas are more suitable than others.
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