A Legacy Group - Improving The School Environment.
Another Way Of Leaving The School
Legacies in the School Environment
This idea is for School Managers who wish to improve their teaching
and learning environment and at the same time enhance their pastoral
curriculum provision. The approach can embrace the whole-school
community, be used to promote internal organisational objectives
and can lead to the development of other external links and networks.
Most schools will devise some way to celebrate with their pupils,
their leaving. As well as the usual party, this paper might help
you to think of other ways to mark this annual occurrence.
Schools wishing to make environmental improvements, both internal
and external to their buildings, only have to carry out an audit.
The school can determine the participants in any audit. On the
one hand, it might be limited to middle and senior managers – alternatively
the more far-sighted will include and incorporate the observations
of as many representative groups of its community as possible.
Defining this first step in the process is important since it can
inform action, create new opportunity, engender participation,
be a platform for leadership, achieve organisational goals, support
organisational culture, create a feeling of belonging - or not.
An audit will result in a list of ‘things that we could
do’ which can then be prioritised against other considerations – practical,
financial, educational, and so on. It might form an implementation
list for a manager responsible for buildings – it could result
in a number of curriculum opportunities for staff with particular
interests. It might be perceived as so overwhelming and unachievable
that doing anything does not become a priority.
This document advocates and promotes an approach which will allow
any school to translate its mission and ethos into practice whilst
improving its learning and working environment. It is based on
practice, experience, experimentation and study over 20 years in
comprehensive, state education. It recognises that the success
of any initiative, no matter its value or how well conceived and
executed, relies on the commitment of the school’s leadership
- its Headteacher and Senior Management Team.
It advocates that schools should promote an environmental ethic,
and that in part, this can be practically realised through self-help
initiatives focussed on its buildings and their immediate surroundings,
and which draw upon its whole school community.
A School – It could be one you know
This school is working to translate its mission statement – “Striving
for Excellence” - in a manner which understands that the
quality of the total school environment has implications for the
quality of the teaching and learning process. The school recognises
that ‘self-help’ is an important principle underpinning
its goal to foster the autonomous learner. It also recognises that
this principle can be extended to incorporate more tangible expression
in its built environment. It realises it has the capacity and ability
of putting into practice a process that can embrace the whole school
community – in the widest sense - and can draw on its support
and participation in many ways. It does not suffer feelings of
helplessness engendered by dwindling budgets, resulting in a set
of priorities that do not include concepts of the quality of the
total school environment.
It understands how the built environment can have a dehumanising
impact on all people. It does not want these effects to impact
on its pupils to the extent that they mitigate against teaching
and learning. This is thus a shared and common concern for all
involved with the School community and its attempts to allow all
its members to thrive.
The School recognises that by fostering an ethos of quality in
the total school environment - through incremental, achievable
goals in its Development Plans - it can set itself new benchmarks,
new targets and thus feel it can place itself on a spiral of organisational
growth, always striving for excellence.
Forming A Legacy Group with Pupils as Decision-Makers
The simple philosophy behind the practice outlined in this document,
was summarised in the comments of the LEA Inspector for PSE, who
on being made aware of the School’s Legacy Group, remarked,
"Its like getting everyone to think, not ‘what am
I getting for Christmas? but more - ‘what am I giving
for Christmas ?"
The idea of a Legacy Group, made up of pupils, staff, support
staff, governors and parents was presented and accepted at a whole
Staff Meeting. The aim was to give a group of Year 11 pupils, embarking
upon their final year at the School, £500 to spend on leaving
a legacy at the School.
How any such sum is realised can be part of the process itself.
It can draw in local community groups, parents, the pupils – depending
on what the school wishes to gain from the entire activity. It
might be to strengthen links with its business community, or with
a local environmental organisation. The possibilities are endless.
The pupil-group, representing their whole year-group, comprised
a male and female from each tutor group, chosen by their peers
under the guidance of their tutor. This group was then complemented
by the Head of Year, a member of the support staff, a governor
and a parent.
Together, their task was to arrive at some form of tangible legacy,
within their budget, which they could leave behind for others in
the whole school community to enjoy. The pupil’s guidance
“Based upon your time at the School, what would you
like to see in the school environment which you feel would
A ‘Democratic’ Process in Action
The process of discussion, deliberation, prioritising, and selection
took place over a period of a term, during school-time. It was
based upon the intimate knowledge and experiences of all concerned.
It allowed for feedback and debate between and amongst the whole
school community in an attempt to create a democratic process – and
for this process to be a learning exercise for all concerned. It
also made for very good press in the local community.
Over the first 3 years of its existence, the complexity of the
final legacy depended very much on the time and effort the Legacy
Group felt they could devote to it.
In one case the group decided on a raised pond with seating in
the courtyard. The group researched, designed and costed a structure,
and on costing it out decide they would have to come in at weekends
with a hired professional bricklayer to construct it. The shape
was based on a roman collecting tank – visited by all Year
7 pupils during a Geography & History Field Day. A good curriculum ‘tie-up’.
In another, an artist-in-residence was hired who worked with younger
pupils to produce planters based upon a traditional African method
of firing clay. The environment was enhanced, as was the curriculum – through
the pupil-led Legacy Group.
Process More Than Product
I am sure that the making of both of these environmental improvements
are the kind of things in which many schools become involved. Some
have more lasting qualities than others – both in design,
construction and materials.
But the important point is – how are the environmental
improvements arrived at?
The Legacy Group idea is for those who want to extend the manner
in which they give pupils an opportunity to be involved in and
take responsibility in decision-making that enhances the learning
and working built environment for the whole-school community.
It involves a carefully conceived, planned and managed intervention
aimed at the whole school community. It can be used to seed other
ideas and make other connections. The most creative managers and
teachers can use it as a vehicle to realise and stimulate a number
of organisational and goals. It can obviously embrace a wide-ranging
number of National Curriculum subjects and areas.
Ethos and Symbolism
Perhaps the most potent force in the idea of a Legacy Group, is
that school managers can embody the ethos of the school in the
enactment of establishing such a group and supporting its work
to fruition. Any final realisation allows for a symbolic expression
of this ethos in the working and learning environment for all who
come after. It allows any ethos to include an environmental ethic
that tries to impress upon young people a message for life, which
Try to leave a place in a better condition
than when you found it.
It can also be conceived as a fitting and symbolic gesture as
pupils undergo their rite of passage - that of leaving their school
for their next part of their journey. It is also a final symbolic
gesture for this journey ahead since it raises the issues of giving
and taking, issues of consensus decision-making, and issues relating
to participation in matters to do with the community and the built
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