Interview with Estelle Morris, Baroness Morris of Yardley

Estelle Morris, Baroness Morris of Yardley, former British secretary of state for Education and Skills (2001-2) taught PE and Humanities from the mid-1970s until 1992, when she was elected as Member of Parliament for Birmingham Yardley. In 2005 she joined the House of Lords as a Labour peer.

What are your early memories of school?

In primary school I can recall the pebbledash walls, the open corridor which had spiders’ webs on when we came back after the summer holidays, a good playing ground with grids that you could play marbles in and a big field. Class rooms were large and the hall was used for PE, assemblies and dinners.

My secondary school had two quadrangles which the classrooms were built round. The sports facilities and one of the Science laboratories were newer than some other buildings and very impressive. There was an old pavilion where we got changed and had refreshments after sports matches.

What was your favourite place in this school?

I like school so I liked the classroom and the areas where we played.

Did you learn to read at school?

I did learn to read but can’t remember too many of the details. We had a library in the classrooms and a book that the teacher read to us each day. I also remember the reading scheme we used.

Did you feel safe in school?

Yes, I did.

When you trained to be a teacher, did anyone ever instruct you in how to use classroom space or outdoor space or talk about the design of the school and classrooms?

I don’t think they did. We had a lot of teaching practice though and may have picked this up from teachers.

Should it matter that school buildings are well designed?

Yes, it is very important but not sufficient by itself, to provide a good quality education.

An architect and a teacher are having coffee together, what should they talk about?

They should perhaps try and find a common language that would underpin their conversations.

What do you imagine school will be like 50 years from now?

It may have more flexible space as well as more specialised rooms. It should be more of a resource for the community than currently is the case.



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