Does School Design Matter?

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Rhinos Woodford GreenWhen you think about schools and their effectiveness, you might think about curriculum, quality of teaching staff and the school’s philosophy. What may not occur to you is the importance of the building’s design on a child’s happiness and academic achievements. Back in 2012, the then education secretary suggested that the layout of a school made minimal difference to learning outcomes.

This way of thinking has been challenged many times over the years, and today’s schools of thought [scuse the pun], believe the opposite. It is now generally accepted that a child’s physical school environment can vastly boost concentration levels and accelerate learning. It’s fairly obvious that drab surroundings with old, badly maintained tables, chairs and furniture could result in a lack of motivation. Many older school buildings also have tiny elevated windows, maybe in an effort to reduce distraction. This leads to a lack of daylight, and gives the appearance of a prison rather than a school

Research carried out by a team led by Professor Peter Barrett from Salford University, found that ‘well designed classrooms and environmental factors can boost learning progress in primary school pupils by 16%’. Sensory factors such as air quality, sound and colour were considered, and proved to have a significant effect on students. New schools are being designed with all of this useful information in mind, and are bright, modern and functional. There is some departure from traditional thinking, with an emphasis on a pupil-focussed space as opposed to a teacher-focussed one. There is a more flexible approach too, with layouts designed to reflect future college or work spaces.

Even existing schools are frequently being upgraded, in line with more contemporary ways of teaching. This includes the new three storey extension, and other work for Woodford Green Prep school. Landscaping work is also planned for this school [also called The Red School due to the uniform]. In addition the Whitfield Building is to be refurbished and will receive a roof extension.

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