I went for a tour of Northampton Academy yesterday. For those of who who have no idea what that means, it is the school that replaced the one I went to in the 1970s. I haven't actually had a tour of a new school ever; the last time I was at a school was one for excluded young people a couple of years ago which was housed in essentially a reinforced nissen hut, so this was something of a real eye opener. Or in other words - Bloody Hell, haven't schools changed?
For starters, it looks like it was designed rather than just thrown together with bricks and windows and when I say designed, I mean that an architect has obviously spent more than an hour drawing up plans. Other than this ergonomic setting, the next thing that really struck me was the amount of hardware in it; there were more computers in the place than PC World and the music department had all kinds of keyboards, PCs and other equipment it made Abbey Road studios look like a playgroup.
The weird thing about this school was something you can't see from the ground; essentially it is designed to look like a fish from the sky, but if you look at it on google it actually looks (depending on what angle you approach it) like a headless three-legged dog or a wonky stegosaurus. Of course, the fish refers to the fact that there is a religious presence, albeit in the background. It isn't a faith school, but there is a religious element, but fortunately it isn't obvious.
Speaking of new architecture and stuff; I drove through Daventry yesterday, a place where I lived for 7 years in the 1970s. Jesus Dave Christ, the place has changed almost beyond belief, in fact it changes every time I go there. The last time was December 2009 and in the last 14 months there has been a load of new buildings and roads. What was once a sleepy west Northants town was expanded by a load of Birmingham overspill in 1968 and has again expanded to the point where it is probably the 3rd largest town in the county.
Just down the road is Braunston, a place that I have distant memories of from my childhood; either my memories have been distorted or this place has trebled in size and just down the road from that is the triumvirate of reprimand - Rainsbrook STC, Onley YOI and Rye Hill prison, a little criminal oasis in the middle of the east Warwickshire countryside; when I were a lad, it was a small youth detention centre that was well hidden and you could drive past it without even knowing it was there; now it's a sprawling den of rehabilitation.
All of this new stuff and most of it doesn't look out of place, yet because the country is in such a state, we'll probably not see any more new stuff for a few generations, by which time these places will look as antiquated as places built in the 1930s.