Who to Collaborate with and Why
When it comes to managing your canopy project, a transparent decision-making process is crucial to success. It is beneficial to everyone if you consult all parties using a ‘whole-school approach’, including both key stakeholders and anyone else who will make use of the installation. Active discussions will help you to define educational objectives and make an initial case for sign-off, while ongoing collaboration throughout the project will also maximise its potential with input which is fully rounded. Here are some of the considerations you should be making.
Talk to Other Schools
Looking up other schools that have installed canopies will strengthen your case with real, local evidence of proven results. The benefits outlined in your proposal will be made more tangible by first viewing the canopy project in its completion elsewhere.
Getting in touch with other schools that have previously installed canopies can also be useful, as you can consult them for advice and find out exactly how the process will play out, gain recommendations for suppliers and gauge potential pitfalls.
Alternatively, if you can find other schools that are also in the initial stage of researching canopies, sharing knowledge could produce time savings. If you are both in the process of finding a supplier then you may be able to leverage other benefits, such as securing better deals from traders by enquiring together.
Get the Children Involved
When implementing a school development project which children will benefit from, there are many positives to be taken from them being a part of its creation. Allowing children to have their say in important decisions does wonders for their confidence, helping them feel valued by giving them a key role in the school and local community. Involving children in big projects inspires them to look positively on their learning experience and teaches them about taking responsibility for actions which will have an important effect on themselves and those around them. They are also more likely to have respect for their surrounding environment when they have helped to shape it.
Not only is pupil participation advantageous for the children, but they in turn can provide you with solutions which will help to drive your project forward. After all, they are the ones whose education and future is being influenced by the world built around them, so they can identify their own needs better than anyone. It may not always be relevant to consult the children, but keeping them updated – and even letting them watch the installation – can help to maintain their enthusiasm and sense of connection to the project.
Seek Input from Other Staff
Calling upon the wisdom of other staff is invaluable in understanding some of the practicalities of the canopy installation. There will be various benefits associated with different areas of the curriculum and age groups. Younger children’s physical development can benefit from the spatial awareness provided by outdoor space, while older children’s science lessons, for example, will gain from being outside.
Some teachers may feel there is more call than others for this project. They will be able to advise on key materials and structure requirements which will impact costs. There may be additional training associated with installing a canopy; or there may be some practicalities around changes to the timetable which will best be worked out with the involvement of all staff.
Some important practical queries which can be answered with the help of other staff include:
- Which classes currently use the outdoor grounds (and at which times)?
- Who runs those classes?
- Which after-school activities are scheduled throughout the week?
- Who supervises the children on break times?
- Who oversees after-school events?
- Who manages the school grounds? E.g. caretaker
Ask the Parents
Involving the parents in your canopy project could bring another unique perspective – for example, if you are looking to install a canopy at the front of the school for parents waiting to pick up their children. Parents may be able to help inform you about average waiting times and the number of other parents present each day. They could also give you a general number count of those who feel there is a need for a covered area.
This approach could also be particularly useful when it comes to children with special needs, whose parents will naturally be able to provide the most valuable insight around their requirements. This may involve the impact that outdoor learning would have on them, positive or negative, or how they make their way around the school grounds, for example if you are looking to install a walkway canopy.
It is also important to decide when you should put aside the time to seek all this feedback. Asking questions about current use of school grounds, requirements for improvement and thoughts on the plan for a canopy takes time. You could carry out this collaborative research gradually so as not to impact too much on school time and productivity, during lessons and in after-school sessions. Alternatively, you could set aside an adequate amount of time within a shorter timeframe, so that the involved parties are less likely to lose interest and their ideas will be fresher.
To summarise, here are the key points on collaborating with others to make your canopy installation a success:
- Maintain a transparent decision-making process with all involved
- Talk to other schools to gauge success, share knowledge or negotiate better deals from suppliers
- Involve the schoolchildren to inspire their connection to the learning environment and help to develop their self-confidence
- Consult other staff to gauge requirements and understand practicalities around the various uses of the canopy
- Speak to parents for insight around usage of the school grounds, both from their perspective and that of their children
- Plan how often you will choose to collaborate with all of these parties and how much feedback you will collect at each point
Now find out how to write a brief for your canopy purchase.