Building Schools for the Future

3 min readNov 12, 2022


When I (Ben) was 11, I went to a grammar school in Blackburn on an assisted place scheme.

I know I was super fortunate to experience this level of schooling — and it was epic when I had some amazing minds inspiring me each day. I remember the feeling on my first day going for lunch in ‘Big School’.

In awe of the grandeur

The oak panelling, the top table where the teachers sat, the portraits of former headmasters and the role call of the students who had served and died in combat. I remember thinking that a 3-course-meal everyday was not appropriate as a school lunch but still loved the formality of it, especially given that I was the only kid from my school that went there.

This grand experience wasn’t just reserved for the dining room either — the headteacher’s office with its fireplace and bookshelves for miles was equally spectacular. However, as I look back over 20 years later, I don’t have the same fondness and awe for the classrooms I was taught in nor the technology we used.

What we see now in classrooms is not too dissimilar to what I experienced in the 1990s

That’s a really sad indictment on our current education system — we still have desks and chairs facing in the same direction with a teacher at the front, often lecturing from some form of presentation tool (it was a chalkboard or wipe-board in my day; now it may be a projector or interactive whiteboard.)

In a recent presentation I gave about ‘The Connected Classroom’, I quoted the great John Dewey, who said

If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow

In a much less grand way, I said,

The medium at the front of the classroom may have changed but the pedagogy still needs to.

I was trying to get at the idea that the technology is changing but teaching isn’t at the same pace. But what I am also beginning to think about again is that the space in which people learn isn’t changing very much either. Our great chat with Iarina Tava on the podcast helped us frame our ideas about genuinely building classrooms for the future — ones that are conducive to high-quality learning and teaching, that engage learners and make school a place they want to spend time.

What would Building Schools of the Future actually look like? (The title of this post was deliberately provocative considering the BSF project undertaken by the Labour government in 2000s and scrapped by one Michael Gove in 2010!)

I’m certainly not suggesting virtual pods, screens for every child, touchscreen tables and beanbags either! We will leave you with one example that we really like: Agora School on Roermond. If we were building a school from scratch, it would likely look very much like that.

For more information about how they set it up, check out Episodes 70 and 137 of the podcast where we chat to its founder, Rob Houben. He was so good we had him on twice!

Read this post and more on my Typeshare Social Blog