Interior picture of a modern school canteen

Joinedupdesignforschools gives pupils the role of clients for a design project at their school. They work in teams to create a brief for their designers or architects and engage in a process that leads to innovative design concepts for schools and new life skills for pupils.

After the joinedupdesignforschools pilot year, between 2000 and 2001, the Sorrell Foundation received support from the Department for Education and Skills (now the Department for Children, Schools and Families) to scale up the programme and run projects and workshops in 100 schools, working closely with 700 pupils in client teams, and often involving the entire school. This means that a total of more than 10,000 pupils have been involved in joinedupdesignforschools.

The tangible and intangible benefits

Some of the projects are implemented and, to date, 24 have been realised. These include a sustainable extension and refurbishment of the design & technology block at Falmouth School in Cornwall, by Urban Salon; a flexible performing arts space designed by architect Phineas Manasseh at Mounts Bay School, Penzance; a redeveloped sixth-form space at Heart of England School, Coventry, designed by Eldridge Smerin and featuring a fully accessible, landmark bridge linking it to the main school; a contemporary, comfortable uniform by Paul Smith for Aldercar Community Language College, Nottingham; and a brightly coloured, multipurpose school hall by designer Kevin McCloud at Falmouth Primary School, Cornwall.

However it is the intangible benefits, the development of pupils’ work and social skills, which are at the real heart of the joinedupdesignforschools programme. The process provides opportunities for pupils to learn and develop highly transferable skills that help them succeed, not just in creative thinking, but in other aspects of daily life. Skills such as teamworking, problem-solving and communication improve their self-confidence and self-esteem. As one 14-year-old pupil said: ‘I’ll be feeling very proud of my involvement. It will be like: “Wow, look what I’ve helped with, look what I’ve done.” It’s raised my morale and it’s raised the morale of the rest of the team.’

The results of the programme were shown in an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in 2005. The exhibition toured the UK, engaging with more schools, architects, designers, local authorities, consortiums and contractors involved in developing schools. The impact of the exhibition prompted the Department for Education and Skills to offer support for a venue at Somerset House. The What’s Next for Schools? exhibition opened there, at the Sorrell Foundation Young Design Centre, in spring 2007.