British independent schools have enviable reputations thanks to outstanding results and notable alumni. Indeed, a school’s reputation is defined by its history. But what defines its future?
Well, a big determinant in an independent school’s future is its ability to attract gifted and able pupils. This generally means winning over their parents by convincing them that you can give their child the very best start in life, and school buildings play a major role.
Part of the brand
Today many schools use iconic modern buildings to distinguish themselves. These landmarks act as a calling card and have become part of a school’s brand. All this is possible because school buildings are seen as indicative of an institution’s overall ethos, its approach to learning and in particular its tech-savviness.
Personally I love the buildings that grab your attention straight away and test your senses. They make a very bold statement.
A phrase I hear a lot nowadays is ‘university-grade facilities’. That’s because schools and colleges are keen to provide a taste of university life to learners at a young age.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore this important factor. It is a powerful selling point that hits all the right notes with ambitious would-be pupils and their parents.
In 2014 Bournemouth University commissioned a Solardome Capella as part of a major strategy for investment in the sciences. Now known as the BioDome, it enables students to conduct high quality fieldwork on campus, a capability long sought by academics.
The BioDome is a striking addition to the main campus, where it sits among the main buildings in a central courtyard. It enables students to undertake high quality environmental research by manipulating climatic conditions. At night it is illuminated by grow lights, making it stand out as a glowing example, both figuratively and literally, of innovation and scientific excellence.
Right now students are using the BioDome to research plant physiology to learn more about their biology and ecology. One such activity is analysing the effect of non-indigenous carnivorous plants on the local insect population.
Demonstrator in Biological Sciences, Dr Elizabeth Franklin, said: “This particular project is the latest in a long line of experiments in the BioDome. The facility provides a stable atmosphere for us to run these tests. It’s important that we’re not limited by the need to conduct experiments outside during the summer season only.”
I’ve seen some truly inspiring projects since I’ve been at Solardome Industries. These include biodomes for an award-winning Eco-centre in Manchester, a rooftop garden learning space at a school in central London, and an advanced biology lab in Nottingham.
My job has taught me that actually you can have what you want. All you have to do is choose.
So next time you are thinking about how to send a prospective student and parents away with the right impression, take a moment to weigh up whether your school estate marks you out as a leader in education.
There’s no doubt that recruiting is a tough business. If you feel like you’re being left behind, then you probably are.