Publish at November 18 2019 Updated September 29 2022

Will they send their children to this school?

When it comes to school development, local listening helps mobilize.

When the political will was to enroll several tens of thousands of new students each year, nearly identical schools were quickly built to deliver quality and relatively uniform programs throughout the country.

Most decisions were made at the national level: there was an objective need of the population, they wanted to meet it. Educational considerations were functional: a blackboard, desks, sometimes a gym, textbooks, teachers.

A matter of need and flexibility

Today, the proportion of new students remains relatively stable, but it is the needs that are diversifying. Politically, the movement is toward inclusion. It is no longer acceptable for some students to be left behind, for talents to be wasted, for the handicapped to be neglected, for immigrants to be marginalized, and for education to be the same for everyone: every student is different.

Instead, there is a demand for a school connected to its community. Of course communities have much the same need for meeting places, sports fields, daycare centers or food services, but how they are developed and what will be done there depends on that very community.

When you add to this the pedagogical considerations and the increasing specialization in most spheres of society, a "standard" school no longer makes much sense.

A school that is open from 8:00 to 17:00,10 months a year and operates with a schedule cut into fixed 60-minute periods is unlikely to meet the realities of a connected school operating on a project basis. That it be year-round, multi-functional, and variable period corresponds to more flexibility and optimization.

In the absence of a major project, then, it is the new pedagogical directions, evolving curricula, and socialization of children and adolescents that now guide the architects' thinking.

Françoise Granoulhac

Training needs and practices are evolving so rapidly that the organization and layout of schools are being called into question, and if we don't, public schools will eventually be deserted for other services that better meet the needs. Religious institutions met this fate not so long ago.

Listen, feel, understand, locally.

Who lives in schools? Students, teachers, administrators, support need only observe them to realize the real needs, as much physical, educational, as social or community. These needs will determine both the layout of spaces and the organization of time.

Who lives around schools? Parents, workers, businesses, social groups, and everything else that makes up the fabric of a neighborhood. Understanding how a school relates to its locality can change everything, both in its design and in its future use. Understanding a community's environmental and social considerations can mobilize them around a project they will be proud of and even willing to support financially if you open the door.

Who should listen? Regional managers, ministry officials, architects, planners. If a school is built without this stage of local consultation, it is likely to be built without personality or impact. This is not usually what is sought for such a strategic construction.

Studies in England and Scotland have shown that local management of the school has been rather well received, despite the new constraints it generates. Principals appreciate the opportunity they are given to act on their environment and to improve, even in a limited way, the material conditions of teaching.

Françoise Granoulhac

National education takes place at the local level, where schools are located.


Constructing the school: from planning to privatization, public policies and school architecture in England and Wales since 1945 - Françoise Granoulhac - Thesis

Une école de rêve - Suzanne Colpron - La Presse

Lab-École -

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