In the UK, the idea that schoolchildren could contribute to an architectural design process in a meaningful way has at last been tested through practice. As we will see below, a few young people of both primary and secondary school ages have been given the opportunity to investigate the architecture of their school, analyse the school’s current and future needs and – in collaboration with architects – to offer practical solutions on renovation, remodelling and refurbishment projects.
As a result of the wide range of innovative built environment education work of the 1990s, young people at the beginning of the twenty-first century are now more confident in approaching architects and are excited at the prospect of applying themselves to a creative process in which real change takes place in real buildings. With their enthusiasm to see concrete alterations in their own school buildings, young people are ready now to participate in a culture of rights to, and responsibilities for a ‘healthier’ built environment. Against the backdrop of ‘Citizenship’ in the National Curriculum (for secondary students in England and Wales since September 2002), the School Council movement and even the practice of Circle Time in Primary schools, young people – increasingly – know that they have the right to voice an opinion, and that their views should be considered.37
In a global context too, as we have seen, children’s participation in decision making is on the political agenda. Since the ratification of Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990), public services in the UK, including health and education, have been required to glean and incorporate children’s views.38
The implications of this new approach have particular significance for the traditional masters of decision making over children’s learning and school buildings – the Local Education Authorities (LEAs).