Our aim – to develop independent thinkers, not sponges – pervades all that we do at Oakham, including the way that we develop our facilities. Our latest new development, the Faculty of Social Sciences, is a case in point.
The three-storey building houses Oakham’s economics, business, politics and citizenship departments. The space was much needed, as the previous classrooms were both old and restrictive in how they could be used.
Buildings are about so much more than just size and capacity
Buildings are about so much more than just size and capacity. Their success lies in how they are designed to function and how they are resourced. If, like at Oakham, your priority is to develop students who are prepared and willing to think for themselves and to be innovative, you have to give them the right opportunities – including facilities – to encourage and nurture these skills. As such, it was vital for us to ensure the building was designed, and furnished, with these learning skills in mind.
The result is a state-of-the-art learning facility for our students, which includes some of the latest ideas and technologies for learning. There are ‘brainstorming’ tables and walls which students are actively encouraged to write over – helping students to think both creatively, and for themselves.
Much of the space has been designed with the specific goal of encouraging collaboration and effective discussion, which is of particular benefit to these subject areas. Learning is a social process, both at school in the formal education sense and, perhaps even more so, in the world of work in the life-long learning sense. As such, there are a variety of spaces that cater for collaborative work. This includes rooms with Harkness tables; which are acknowledged to encourage effective group discussions.
The physical environment has been designed to be flexible – to best suit the needs of the lessons that are taking place. Rooms can be divided or opened up depending on what’s required, and furniture can be easily reconfigured to best work for each lesson. The faculty also includes presentation rooms and ‘break-out zones’, much akin to what students will find when they move on to university.
The new building has also been designed to mirror the commercial world in its styling and décor, which should help to prepare students for their future in business. Most notably, there is a large social space in the entrance to the building, with several visual display units which will stream news channels to stimulate debate and discussion amongst the students.
Oakham has an enviable reputation for developing entrepreneurial and political minds. We already have a range of politicians, judges, and commentators amongst our alumni – including Lord Clarke, Supreme Court Judge, Ben de Pear, Editor of Channel 4 News, Lord Cope, and James Astill, The Economist’s Washington correspondent. We also have entrepreneurs flying the flag for business, including Phoebe Gormley, the woman credited for shaking up the suits on Savile Row with her company Gormley and Gamble.
I’m in no doubt that these facilities will further increase the incredibly high levels of learning, discourse and debate that take place in our social science departments. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this new building will help develop the successes of our future alumni.