Bridging the Gap: A synthesis of research into the supply and the demand of built environment education in schools (Engaging Places Research Summary)

Sally Kendall, Anne Wilkin, Richard White, Jenny Murfield

01 January 2007

Engaging Places was set up by DCMS to develop an approach that can make people more aware of the learning opportunities available in the built environment and ‘unlock’ the educational potential for schools of the historic and contemporary built environment. NFER was commissioned to undertake two research projects which independently considered the supply side (providers) and the demand/audience side (teachers/schools) of built environment education, each focused on three pilot regions (London, the South East and Yorkshire and the Humber). A synthesis of the main findings from the two research projects was also commissioned in the form of a briefing document for Ministers, senior official and members of key sponsored bodies and stakeholders.

Engaging Places is a partnership between the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), English Heritage, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), in association with the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF - formerly DfES) and the Academy for Sustainable Communities (ASC).


Key Findings

  • Providers demonstrated a tangible willingness and intent to supply schools with high quality provision, opportunities and experiences. There was also evidence of a clear demand for built environment education from schools and teachers.
  • More information is needed regarding the availability of, and opportunities associated with, built environment education as well as advice and guidance relating to how buildings and local places can be used in teaching.
  • It is important for schools to have someone, such as a practitioner or local authority advisor, who can provide support, inspiration and advocacy for this way of working. There is scope for the sector to work with those teachers already committed to built environment education and to apply their knowledge, experience and credibility (as practitioners) to promote the opportunities and realities of using buildings and places in teaching amongst the wider profession.
  • Engaging Places has a crucial role to play in (i) continuing to bring together the supply and demand elements of built environment education, (ii) focusing on bridging the gap between teachers’ (and other end-users’) awareness and understanding of the potential of these resources, experiences and opportunities, and (iii) raising the general profile and importance of helping children and young people to learn about and engage with the buildings and places that characterise their physical environment.