One of so many insights from the remarkable Leigh Technology Academy (schools within schools, vertical age groupings, so much responsibility given to older students, project based work, etc etc) was this: so many of the 21st century schools that I have seen leaping forwards in ambition and performance have a certain “wow factor” when you walk in – it is part of the self esteem growth that you always see in the students. A big part of that “wow factor” comes from an absence of what the US calls “cells and bells” – the old boxes and corridoors of the factory school era. However, not only are the tiny boxes missing (Leigh Technology Academy teaches a lot of classes in groups of 60 in big spaces, but with three or sometimes four adults present) but one design feature that stands out is the complete lack of right angles! It seems like a small thing in design terms but the impression it gives is of a series of interlinking agile spaces that are a very long way from boxes.
And watching the teaching and learning that results, reading the research too, it clearly works.