Good design, innovative thinking about the use of space or small ideas and changes can enable teachers to undertake different activities and facilitate different types of learning. Spaces are not just where pupils gather together in order to learn but can be key to the way they learn and the quality of their learning experience. Good spaces inspire, stimulate, challenge and support pupils and teachers.
Changing Classrooms30 was produced by The Lighthouse (the Scottish Centre for Architecture, Design and the City), in partnership with the Scottish Government, to illustrate the important relationship between space and learning. It offers examples of good and interesting ways in which spaces can support teachers to improve learning in the context of Curriculum for Excellence.
Changing a room's layout, re-arranging furniture or using it differently, creating places within spaces, and better use of open air spaces can all help support a variety of activity and implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. Changing Classrooms highlights eight examples of innovative use of space in schools which demonstrate how good design, innovative thinking or small ideas or changes have led to a better learning environment.
Architecture itself can be a learning resource. It can illustrate philosophies, theories, ideas and inspires curiosity. It makes the invisible visible. It may confuse the senses. It is this understanding and misunderstanding which makes an environment stimulating. The design of the new Dalry Primary School in North Ayrshire reflects the process of learning through discovery and demonstrates the value of involving the whole school community in an school building project.
This innovative project involved the close collaboration of artists, architects, pupils and teachers in the design and realisation of a new concept in primary school architecture. The school has been designed as a learning prototype, offering users multiple opportunities to engage with different organisational and teaching methods and to use or modify the facilities and spaces.
The aim was to create a new language of learning projects, ideas, concepts and data within the fabric of the new school through the adoption of the concept of 'imbedded intelligence', where routes tell stories, layout suggests systems of measurement, and specific spatial relationships inform about the local and global environment. Facts, figures, phrases and stories have been incorporated into the structure with historical, site specific text and information and these help to prompt pupils to engage with their environment, to ask questions and encourage them to take responsibility for their learning.
Inverclyde Academy opened in January 2009, with an Energy Performance Certificate 'A' rating - a significant achievement for a secondary school building. The Council were committed to producing a landmark campus that would also act as an exemplar to inform the design of subsequent schools.
The design of the new Academy makes excellent use of natural daylight and ventilation to provide a high quality learning and teaching facility for the children and wider community. High efficiency condensing gas boilers and heating and water services systems are installed and insulation and air tightness are above current building standards regulations. Sustainably sourced materials, such as Forestry Stewardship ( FSC) sourced timber, were specified where practical and affordable. A 50kW wind turbine will provide 15-20% of the power to the school as well as helping to reduce ongoing energy costs and CO 2 emissions.
The Council has incorporated the lessons learned from the Academy project into their PPP Schools programme, which will deliver two new primaries and two new secondaries by 2011. In the first tie-up of its kind in Scotland, the Carbon Trust worked alongside the Council and the building consortium E4i through the procurement process, providing a range of technical advice on issues such as the use of natural light, improved insulation and high standards of air tightness, to minimise the carbon footprint of the four schools and ensure high quality learning and teaching environments are provided within them.
The Carbon Trust is now working with other authorities on a similar basis to help deliver school buildings that contribute to the Climate Change agenda whilst also providing high quality learning environments.
The new Academy makes excellent use of natural daylight and ventilation to provide a high quality learning and teaching facility.
Engaging users in the process of design
The ongoing Senses of Place: Building Excellence project, commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2007, demonstrates the importance and immense value of involving children and young people in school design from an early stage. The project, led by The Lighthouse, aims to make consultation an active, engaged and useful process. It tests the idea that by improving the capability for building users to contribute to its design, a better building will result.
The results of the first phase of the project were presented in a book, published in 2008, which explores some of the processes which can lead to successful consultation. Five projects were undertaken, each with a different local authority and a different architecture practice. In each case, stakeholders - pupils and teachers - participated proactively in a consultation process to develop design briefs for environments that would support delivery of Curriculum for Excellence.
The enthusiasm of the young people and others involved in the projects and the richness of the ensuing design briefs act as an inspiration authorities, architects and others involved in school design across Scotland in thinking carefully about the contribution the school environment can make to learning and teaching. A second phase of the project now underway will further develop effective, practical approaches to stakeholder engagement on actual school building projects to ensure the learning and teaching environments in schools are the very best they can be.
The pupils of Blairdardie Primary School, in North West Glasgow, felt their extensive school grounds, which incorporate grassed areas and asphalt, did not reflect the vibrancy and positive ethos of the space inside. The entire school community was consulted on how to develop the grounds, with each pupil drawing a design showing the improvements they would like to see take place.
The resulting plan included something to meet the needs of children in all year groups: a bike rack, static play equipment, a traversing wall, table top games, a large wall mural, mobile football goals, an outdoor classroom incorporating carved wooden benches, a bog garden and a woodland walk.
The project was implemented in stages to allow curriculum links and learning opportunities for the children to be developed - for example, problem solving, measuring, planting, designing and painting a large wall mural and creating the designs for the wooden benches.
The grounds are now used extensively for outdoor learning, with enhanced opportunities for physical activity and seating areas which encourage social interaction and emotional health, whilst the bog garden and woodland area give the children the chance to interact, and develop a connection, with the natural world.
The school was helped with funding from a variety of sources, including the national lottery, Glasgow City Council, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Parent Council, whilst Grounds for Learning, Kelvin Clyde Greenspace and various professional artists provided advice and support.
A Community Campus
The Raploch Community Campus is a flagship education project at the centre of the regeneration master plan for the Raploch area of Stirling, comprising of three primary schools, a special school and a nursery. The Campus also provides Forth Valley College with teaching accommodation, while the local community benefit from extensive community sports facilities and office space, which is used both by the Council and other community partners.
The Campus, developed by the Council with the schools, teachers, parents, pupils and members of the local community, provides excellent opportunities for co-operative working both between the educational establishments and with the wider community partners. It provides a range of leisure and further education opportunities in a building that members of the local community can truly feel is their own. Catering, including the school meals service and a bistro open to the public, is provided through a partnership arrangement with Forth Valley College where the kitchen provides a training venue for the college. There are also hair and beauty training facilities provided by the College within the Campus.
The Campus demonstrates that it is possible to find an appropriate balance between public and private space. It provides a high quality environment conducive to learning and teaching in the 21st century and the type and variety of spaces support positive integrated working as well as supporting the principles of Curriculum for Excellence.
Council wide approach to the modernisation of the school estate
North Lanarkshire Council's 'Schools and Centres 21' school upgrading programme aims to promote high quality learning and teaching; to address inadequate buildings and facilities; to address inequalities in the quality of school buildings; to make more efficient use of resources; to enhance community facilities and develop schools as community hubs; and to stimulate social and economic regeneration, particularly in deprived communities.
To achieve this, the Council is seeking to significantly improve the condition and educational suitability of school buildings. The approach varies according to the individual needs and circumstances of particular schools. In some cases a new build will offer best value because of long terms costs and other financial considerations, whilst in other cases modernisation of the existing buildings will be the most appropriate option.
The Council adopted the following terminology to differentiate between the various levels of modernisation required in school buildings:
- renovation - maintenance of the existing fabric, eg painting, floor covering and ceiling finishes.
- refurbishment - partial upgrading of the existing building and facilities, eg partial DDA compliance and asbestos removal.
- remodelling - extensive upgrading of the existing building and redesign of the accommodation, eg curriculum-led upgrades, new facilities and full DDA compliance.
- reconstruction - eg partial demolition and rebuilding to modern standards.
The Schools and Centres 21 Strategy is based on remodelling and reconstruction to support the extensive modernisation of each school in the programme. This strategy will maximise the impact on the educational facilities in each school, thus promoting high quality learning and teaching. In addition, it will promote longer term savings from the reduction in running costs. Finally, the Council feels it reflects the expectations of parents, pupils and staff for equity in the provision of educational facilities - the school upgrading programme will eventually give all communities and all parts of each school access to the same high quality facilities as those established in the Council's earlier 'Education 2010' PPP schools programme.
This strategy will maximise the impact on the educational facilities in each school, thus promoting high quality learning and teaching.
Corporate Asset Management Planning
West Lothian Councils Corporate Asset Management Plan was approved by the Council Executive in November 2007. The plan contains a wide range of asset objectives that set out the council's aspiration for managing all of its assets and a fully funded 10-year investment strategy for property, open space, roads, structures, street lighting, water-related infrastructure, housing, fleet and ICT.
In preparing the plan, future aspirations and investment needs were identified for all council assets, including the school estate, and developed into Strategic Outline Business Cases. Likely financial resources available over the 10-year period were established and an option appraisal prioritisation exercise undertaken to match priorities with resources. The resultant investment strategy ensures that all assets, including the school estate, will be maintained over the long term and that key priority projects that support corporate objectives will be delivered.
A corporate approach to identifying investment needs ensures that information collected as part of the School Estate Management Plan, such as that relating to condition, suitability, sufficiency, consumption and information management is fully integrated into the prioritisation process. Investment decisions can then be taken based on complete picture of needs and priorities and this ensures that the key requirements of the school estate are an integral part of the management of the entire Council's property portfolio.