Why a distributed school?

Channel 4 programme 'Things to Come' Prof. Stephen Heppell talks about the future of small schools and explains why small communities of learners is key.


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The Distributed School Project
'fields apart, streets ahead'


Nationally, we are building roughly one school every four days; this represents a huge investment. We are not sure if we are building the right schools for 2010, let alone for 2020. What is true is that while we are experimenting and we are certainly not spending the required amount on research and development to examine and test the breadth of what we might do.

All the evidence from the countries which are experimenting demonstrates that those engaged in discussion about teaching and learning in a new context are stimulated to examine their own practice and therefore pupils are encouraged and exhilarated; there is no danger to children though experimentation with learning contexts, indeed it is normally an accelerating experience.

Locally, there many areas where for reasons of price, employment, infrastructure and more, families are scarce and school age children are more scarce. Communities have lost their schools and something of their identity, whilst children lose the opportunity for a world class, but local, education. This proposal harnesses new communications technologies and new pedagogic approaches to offer an alternative in providing a solution at locations where very small numbers of resident children have so far made school socially and economically undesirable.

In addition this proposal offers a vision of a rural community transformed by the introduction of a classroom (node) in the locality. The node is seen as the heart of the community, spreading out into the community. It is unashamedly a child centred approach; viewing children as the heart of the community but through technology drawing experience, expertise and specialism from those locally and in other partner clusters. The community is empowered technologically too; this proposal includes some ambitious plans to bring broadband into the heart of hitherto unreachable areas.