Transforming your school footprint and maximising school space

With recent UK government figures showing the number of pupils attending state secondary schools rising by 20% over the next decade it is more important than ever to make sure the educational environment they are in is suitable for learning.

It may sound great having a record number of children attending your school but if the facilities and school environment around them aren’t up to scratch this will play a big part in the performance of students work and attendance  - and of course the schools overall performance scores.

So what’s the solution?

Schools have a choice of extending upon their current build or refurbishing the space they currently have to motivate the current influx of students.

The decision to build extensions would involve local authority planning and obtaining funding and although can result in a fantastic “new school feel” the time this takes to address does not help the urgency of the additional space required.

Maybe the school is more in need of a refurbishment with better space planning and whilst this does involve managing many processes, if a school choose the perfect contractor, you would be in safe hands. Choosing one with an enviable reputation for school refurbishment projects who can deliver your requirements in the school holidays and you will have found the solutions.

When there just isn’t enough space.

However in some cases schools genuinely need to extend their current build in order to take on their new addition of students. This can create a problem as schools only have a small time frame to expand their environment, which is commonly during the six-seven week summer holiday.

Have you considered school pods?

Maybe your school is aspiring to introduce an area dedicated to smaller groups for learning like a dedicated music class. The idea of a school pod makes the solution to finding extra classroom space an interesting proposition. The designs and safety of external classrooms has much improved since the 70’s. With acoustic solutions being inbuilt, quick assembly by the qualified contractor and achieving 39 DB sound protection, glass fronted and relocatable this option should not be discounted. Download our pod brochure here.


The current debate on this is: Would a school building extension really be more beneficial than ensuring that the current space is optimised for students?

From our experience many old school interiors have been transformed to provide amazing school workplaces retaining the history of the school. New builds are great and can be designed to create something amazing BUT with funding and guidelines on template builds that are hard to achieve in short timeframes the pressure is often felt all round.
A study by the University of Salford was carried out around the Primary schools of Blackpool, with data collected from seven hundred and fifty one students. This data included: levels of performance on academic subjects, ages of students as well as gender throughout the academic year. They also carried out evaluations on the environments in which the students were being educated in.

What they uncovered from this was quite interesting. They found that the school interior affected a students’ progression across the year by up to 25%. This means that according to the study, the environment around the students does impact their ways of learning quite significantly.

Does this mean that schools shouldn’t extend their space, even with the increase in students? Do school building regulations allow schools to extend their grounds and take on such a gargantuan amount of pupils?

Does your school meet  Building Requirements and Regulations

Some schools may not meet the building requirements with their current school fit out due to the increase of students. According to the Area Guidelines for Mainstream Schools there are certain requirements to meet depending on the room type and school type (Primary/ Secondary).

Some rooms have specific requirements for sizes and how many people in while others vary. For example, a secondary school with a music practice room or a group room require eight square metres for three pupils, while general group rooms for both primary and secondary schools vary.

School breakout areas such as staff rooms also have certain regulations that must be met, including a social area space and kitchenette area closely located.

So if schools do not meet these regulations with the mass of new students then perhaps it is time to extend the current build, but that doesn’t address the elephant in the room: the remaining older areas within the  school environment.

In the study by the University of Salford mentioned earlier, they covered several details when looking at the environment aspect: noise, lighting, quality of air, temperature, orientation, spacing, storage and use of colour.

The impacts of Design using Colour:

Colour has an effect on mood and behaviour and has been dubbed by some as colour psychology. This is where colours and tones can impact on an individual’s mood. This could be a factor on how the school environment is having an effect on the education of pupils.

Every colour has several positive and negative traits according to colour-affects.co.uk, with emotional and physical effects. The primary colours: red, blue, yellow and green have the following effects:

Red: Excitement, courage, strength, warmth, anger, defiance

Blue: Communication, relaxation, intelligence, lacking friendliness, emotionally lacking

Yellow: Confidence, optimistic outlook, friendliness, fear, depression

Green: Balance, reassurance, well rested, boredom, bland attitude

In order to find the most optimal colour for the classroom, it’s a case of seeing if the pros outweigh the cons. For example with the colour red there is excitement and passion for the lesson, but there is the potentially negative results of anger and defiance that could deter from choosing the colour. The positive effects of using colour and school branding within any Design & Refurbishment is that staff and students will be proud of their new school modern environment and feel uplifted.

Air Quality/ Ventilation:

Air quality is important for students as low levels of oxygen mean that the brain will not be as functional and productive as opposed to a room with high levels of oxygen. Regulations mention that school premises must provide a minimum of eight litres of air for each individual in the teaching areas. With the increase in students’ air quality could become an issue without a positive change in the environment. This is achieved by the mechanical and electrical design of any school workplace and the correct inputs and outputs achieved.

Lighting:

The regulations on lighting for classrooms is quite peculiar, as the minimum requirements for brightness varies depending on the rooms. For example general classrooms require 300 lux or more whilst rooms with tasks that are considered demanding (Such as science rooms), require 500 lux or more. This comes under the Education (School Premises) Regulations. Again it’s all down to the correct design and installation to achieve the correct lux levels

Temperature:

Temperature is another topic that differs depending on the type of room students are based in. PE departments require a lower minimum temperature than the other rooms due to the high activity, with the minimum temperature being 15 degrees. Classrooms and libraries are regulated to have a minimum of 18 degrees, while medical rooms are regulated to twenty one degrees.

These temperatures are slightly different to the approved code of practice, because children can’t withstand colder temperatures when compared to adults. This again can affect pupil’s performance and productivity so adequate air conditioning has to be in place.

Controlling Noise:

Every room in the school building requires some form of insulation and acoustic conditions so classrooms within a closed area do not get disturbed. As school staff come under The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, the school must make sure that in the place of work there are controlled zones in which staff and students are not obstructed from learning due to levels of noise.

Echoes and noise can be reduced with the use of creative and colourful acoustic solutions. Acoustic screens and pods are made from sound absorbing form and design fabric that allow noise to no longer be an issue in classrooms. They can either be suspended from the ceiling or they can be standing, regardless it is ideal for rooms that need noise reduction.

Space planning:

Spacing is critical in a school design especially when it comes down to health and safety. Especially in cases of fires, there should be enough spacing between seats and desks for students to exit as well as spacing around the exit itself. Risk assessments should be regularly carried out in order to make sure that the classrooms are as safe as possible, all the while using the space around you effectively to include the increased student rate.

Schools are included in the Health and Safety at Work act of 1974, which says that employers are required to ensure that students, visitors and members of staff are not exposed to any health and safety risks. This may also include the overcrowding of classrooms as members of staff cannot offer sufficient supervision and therefore can’t correctly perform their duties.

There are several examples of layouts that improve spacing and learning:

·         The Horseshoe: Tables are in the shape of a horseshoe with the chairs around the outside. This allows students to face the centre where the teacher can teach freely as well as keep an eye on students.

·         Chairs in a circle: The tables are pushed away and chairs are aligned in the circle, with the teacher as the centrepiece. Much like the horseshoe this allows direct engagement with the teacher and students.

·         Traditional rows: If it isn’t broken don’t fix it. This is the standard desking and seating arrangement in which students are put into rows next to each other. Although this may not support all teaching methods, equal rows are effective when it comes to spacing and making the rows equal allows easier engagement if students are working in pairs.

·         Nested group tables: Nested tables are methods of desking that can be put away with ease as they fold away. This not only allows students more room for their work but these desks are great for group projects.

Orientation:

A classroom’s orientation is essential for student learning. In an ideal situation students want to be facing the teacher and engage in the lesson and the teacher want to be able to see their students without obstruction.

Although the bullet points above do help when it comes to desking and seating orientations, the room orientation is yet to be covered. To have full engagement from students it is imperative that distractions are removed. These distractions include facing towards a door or window as whatever is going on outside may catch the attention of the student rather than the class.

However, take into consideration health and safety as obstructing the doors goes against the Regulatory Reform Order of 2005 (Fire Safety). In article 14 of The Regulatory Reform it says that any exits and emergency routes out of the building must have a clear pathway, leading to an area of safety.

Providing sufficient Storage:

School storage can create an issue with spacing in classrooms if dealt with incorrectly. Some school storage solutions are colossus and bulky, so rather than consolidating documentation and saving space they take up a substantial amount.

There are a variety of storage solutions available, from storage walls to under desk pedestals & caddies & lockers and other bespoke school storage solutions that can save space in the classroom. Saving the space allows the increase of pupils to be catered for.

For masses of documentation on pupils and staff, it’s recommended that storage walls are implemented or perhaps mobile storage that can easily be consolidated. Storage can also be unappealing to the eye, so it’s beneficial to choose funky lockers and filing cabinets for student and staff access. Further additions of well-designed school environment assets are more likely to motivate students. Or even considering the outsourcing of data control and archive storage

Washrooms & Toilets:

Schools are obligated by the education regulations of 1999 to have adequate washroom facilities that take gender, age and pupil quantity into account. The current washroom and toilet regulations are like so:

Toilets:
Pupils under age of 5:
1 toilet = every 10 pupils

Pupils over age of 5: 1 toilet = every 20 pupils

Special Schools: 1 toilet = every 10 pupils, age not taken into account

Washbasins:

When Majority of pupils are under 11: Washbasins = Toilets

When majority of pupils are over 11:

Washroom + 1 toilet = 1 washbasin (At least)

Washroom + 2 toilets = 2 washbasins (At least)

Washroom + 3 or more toilets = At least 2/3 the number of washbasins as toilets

These regulations are in place in order for schools to have an optimal level of washrooms and toilets, which means that toilets will be less crowded around for use and tardiness is at a minimal. Toilets must also be kept at a decent sanitary level as part of the School Premises Regulations.

How can we help?

At RAP we take great pride in having our own in-house design team that work with both 2D and 3D CAD visualisations (For more information check out the recent blog on the RAP website). We also have our own Projects delivery team and an in-house health and safety manager to make sure that it follows CDM regulations during the fit out and refurbishment process. We’ve also been commended award winners by the NFB, so you know that when using our services you will get an award winning delivery.

Our in-house team allows us to work and communicate with efficiency in order to deliver on our promises, which is high quality office, carehome and school design, refurbishment and fit out. For more information check out our website, filled with content from our blogs to projects. If we can help you then don’t hesitate to contact us 0333 600 1234.

Our most recent school project in Birmingham, here

Our project for the EKC Travel and Tourism Academy, here

Also another project at EKC with the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy project, here

     
   
   
 
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