7 October 2012

Good morning on a fine, fine morning in downtown Byfield. Now that the mist has cleared, it’s another fine autumnal morning with a bright blue sky and golden sunshine. All things considered, this week has been not bad and even provided an opportunity for a fine autumnal bike ride Thursday afternoon.

Busy day today – we’ve got a gaggle of friends coming for Sunday lunch – so this edition could be mercifully short. My contributions to the festivities are (a) fresh-baked ciabatta rolls and (b) home-made liquorice ice cream which I produced yesterday in preparation. (I say “my” contributions – actually, the contributions come from the bread machine and the ice cream maker but I like to think my oversight adds some value to their labours). I also need to do the hoovering and clean the loos – so, a busy morning looms large.

In contrast to the strenuous activities ahead of us this morning, there’s been little of any significance this week so, as well as being on a tight schedule, we’re also suffering from a “news” shortage. Definitely brief then.

I guess, therefore, that the only answer is a modest “rant” against one of our favourite idiot politicians, Michael Gove, the Education Secretary. I don’t need to remind you of the qualities of idiocy which Gove brings to the job – we’ve rehearsed them many times in the past. But now Gove has decreed that curves are bad, at least in school buildings.

School BuildingWith no experience in education other than attending school himself, Gove has come to the conclusion that he is an expert on the way children learn, the manner in which they should be taught and now, the buildings in which they are instructed. I am not making this up – he has banned the use of curved walls in any new school buildings.


It seems that, as far as Michael Gove is concerned, children can presumably only learn well in rectangular boxes and an architect’s attempts to make a building “interesting” or “artistic” or, perhaps even, “functional” or “suited to its purpose” are all just extravagance which is costly and pointless.

Never mind what works for children or teachers. Or the fact that architects, especially award-winning ones, are generally quite good at designing buildings.

Oh, and by the way, because of the recession, new school buildings are now going to be 15% smaller than previously. Unfortunately, Gove has not yet found a way to make the children 15% smaller than previously but he’s working on it. Certainly the government’s austerity measures should help.

As one architect with experience of building schools said: “[Gove’s decree on future school building] is extraordinarily over-prescriptive and it shows an extreme lack of trust in the architectural and construction professions to deliver schools to budget.

Why are they not just telling us how much they want to pay per square metre? I can understand them wanting to turn the screw on the budget, but why do they not give architects who understand these things the ability to decide.

To be fair, we should have seen this coming. More than a year ago Gove announced at a conference that “we won’t be getting Richard Rogers to design your school; we won’t be getting any award-winning architects to design it, because no one in this room is here to make architects richer”. Only the day before that pronouncement, however, he was on BBC Radio 4 announcing that “The truth about free schools is that they will introduce the sort of innovation and dynamism that we’ve already seen in schools like Mossbourne.”

The only small problem: the Mossbourne Academy was, in fact, designed by the very same Richard Rogers (Oops!).

Love to you all,


PS – We’re off next weekend to the south coast so next week’s edition may be late, early or non-existent.