Bexhill High School: Multi-million pound investment in ‘education pods’ ends in failure

The Independent is reporting that an East Sussex academy has been awarded £6m to reverse a radical open-plan learning structure branded as a failure…

Based on the Scandinavian models of studying, this was open-plan learning. This was the future, and all for just £38m – most of it from central government via the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) investment programme and a further £4m from East Sussex County Council.

That, though, was in 2010, at the opening of the new buildings, funding for which had been approved in 2007.

On 27 April, the parents and 1,200 pupils of what is now Bexhill High Academy were being told of more “very exciting” news: the Department for Education has awarded £6m for a rebuild of the new build…

As one parent branded the £44m total outlay “farcical”, Ms Brown [headteacher] insisted the latest £6m would reverse a decline which saw the school placed in special measures in April 2013 and its sponsor, Prospects Academies Trust, fold in May 2014…

One father of a 13-year-old pupil at the academy said: “My son found it hard to concentrate in the 90-person pod, with people always talking. It was silliness, trying to make the school look more up to date. “It’s upsetting all that money was invested and more money now has to be spent to put it right. It is a little bit farcical.”


I’m not sure this was such a radical idea as way, way back in the 70s I went to a middle school in Oxford which tried a similar open plan approach with all three forms in each year housed in one open plan space. Fwiw I hated it and left after a year

But more broadly, how do we feel angry at this one: scoff at the whole idea, feel angry at the waste or just accept that sometimes someone needs to try doing things differently but it won’t always work?

Thoughts and reactions?


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Categories: Academies and Secondary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Yet almost every single education policy peddled by any political party is just a repeat of what happened at Bexhill.

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove This is due to MPs having too much power over something they know nothing about, yet it’s still allowed to happen

  3. @andylutwyche SchoolsImprove The architect who designed Bexhill High said:  ‘The detailed brief for Bexhill High School was developed by the school (Head Teacher, staff, pupils and governors) in conjunction with East Sussex County Council and educational advisors.’

    So not just down to politicians’ meddling but to teachers who were overly impressed with the Kunskapsskolan schools in Sweden which use ‘personalised learning’ in warehouse-like spaces (ie each individual pupil works at their own pace on the computer and have regular tutorials to check how they’re getting on).

  4. Another example of the mentality that you can ‘think about’ a problem in education and come up with a successful solution.
    Why are people so resistant to evidence?  perhaps because it takes away their power?
    This is just one of dozens of examples of people thinking that there is structural solution to raising educational standards.
    It goes along with building new schools, grammar schools, free schools, iPads for all etc.

  5. Plans to remodel the ‘pods’ were underway in June 2014.  But Bexhill High’s failure is not just to do with the pods (although they contributed significantly) but also to the behaviour of Prospects Academies Trust.  June 2014 monitoring by Ofsted said:

    ‘The timing of the announcement of the withdrawal of Prospects Academies Trust, due to a decision by its parent company, was unhelpful. It came when Year 11 students were about to sit examinations, changes in senior leadership were imminent and decisions about the building were pending.’

    Before Bexhill became an academy it was ‘Satisfactory’.  Monitoring in March 2012 found the school had made good progress towards making improvements and the local authority (LA) had provided satisfactory support.

    The school converted to academy status in November 2012 with Prospects Academies Trust (PAT). over whether Lord Hill, the then schools minister, ignored civil servants’ advice not to let PAT sponsor academies.  For details of the saga see:

  6. lennyvalentino

    SchoolsImprove Must be galling for schools in desperate need of building repairs to see a further £6m spent fixing this one.

  7. MadgeJesss

    SchoolsImprove I visited a secondary school in Nottingham in the 70s that was built on open plan lines. It had a vision to go with design.

  8. MadgeJesss

    SchoolsImprove I visited a secondary school in Nottingham in the 70s that was built on open plan lines. It had a vision to go with design.

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