Do good buildings make for better educated children?
Buildings can’t get children through Highers, or enthuse them with literature in the style of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. They can’t galvanise a school football team to achieve unimagined success. But they can make a huge difference to teachers’ abilities to bring such things about.
It’s relatively easy to show how much harm bad buildings can do. The wrong kinds of corridors can create havens for bullying. Tatty, dysfunctional structures can demotivate and demoralise. A leaking roof, undersized classrooms, or poor heating put direct obstacles in the way of a school’s success. Physical environment that shows no sign of care or pride can communicate the same lack to the people who use it.
It can, surely, only be a good thing if teachers and pupils set off each morning to a place that gladdens the heart, works well, and shows thought, imagination and dedication in its making. In business it is widely accepted that better environments attract better staff and motivate them to work better; the same is true of teachers. And, even if design had no measurable outcomes, children should have access to good architecture as much as they should have access to art and music.
The new Mearns Academy aims to do just that. The facilities for learners are excellent and indeed the whole community will benefit from the site including a community library, theatre and hugely improved sports facilities. So, whilst good buildings alone cannot make for better educated children, they are a spoke in the wheel determining how comfortable the journey to the end of the road will be.