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Over the past few years, classroom design has become a hot topic in education. In his latest blog, our Head, Mr Penty, looks at why creating the right environment for learning is so important and how Trent College is meeting this challenge.
Last summer a two-year study by the University of Salford and architects, Nightingale Associates, on the subject was published, concluding that classroom environment can affect a child’s academic progress by as much as 16% over a year.
The study identified seven key design factors for best predicting pupil progress - light, temperature, air quality, ownership, flexibility, complexity and colour.
I’ve always felt strongly there is an indelible link between learning and classroom environment. That is why we’ve committed to refurbishing our classrooms to create more modern, stimulating and inspiring learning spaces for students and staff.
At a time when whizzy new technologies dazzle, it’s too easy for schools to spend all their resources in this area while overlooking the place where pupils and teachers actually spend all their time. Classroom environments should be a priority focus as the core function of any school.
Those of you familiar with the Maltby Building, which houses History, Politics and Modern Languages, will recall its dim strip-lit rooms, bordered by overbearing dark wood cupboards (containing lots of redundant AV equipment) and very traditional layout. Our approach to this building’s refurbishment focused not only on brightening, modernising and de-cluttering the classrooms themselves, but also the corridors and staff offices to create a holistic positive learning environment.
Front of class whiteboards have been replaced by entire walls where pupils can scribble, share and compare ideas for more interactive learning experiences, and shelving and storage have gone to remove the temptation to clutter.
Bright LED lighting, with added economy benefits, and an imaginative use of colour combine to produce fresh, appealing spaces while high-quality, lightweight tables and chairs, designed to prevent anyone leaning back on them too, can be arranged to meet the style and needs of the different lesson objectives and teaching styles.
This feel is replicated in the corridors where funky, innovative noticeboard spaces enable departments to get the highest level of display quality, encouraging almost subconscious learning in everyone that regularly sees the displays.
The ‘new’ Maltby Building has been in use since September, and feedback from students and staff has been very positive. Head of History and our Oxbridge lead teacher, Helen Johnson, believes the new classrooms have made a huge difference.
She said: “When I run my Oxbridge classes I can now have several students working on challenges at the same time on the board, the other students then compare whose working out was the best. They really enjoy doing that!
“The storage solutions mean everything can be neat and tidy. Group work is far simpler. I can alter classroom layouts according to group sizes and requirements. This is so much better than before when they were a little trapped due to poor layout.”
Pupils, meanwhile, consistently use words such as ‘bright’, ‘fresh’, ‘colourful’, ‘welcoming’, ‘modern’, ‘cheery’, and ‘inspiring’, while it’s acknowledged the whiteboard walls and display boards encourage learning, and the whole environment makes it easier to concentrate and focus on classwork.
Creating vibrant, inspiring spaces to learn is done with pupil and staff wellbeing at the forefront of our thinking. We have the opportunity to achieve a great juxtaposition at Trent College, where the interiors of our very traditional, impressive school buildings are becoming increasingly fresh, slick and modernised to continue to provide the best possible learning experiences for all our students.