Research leads Design

17 November 2017

The design of POWIIIS Primary evolved after a great deal of consultation, research and review. Taking into account the position and requirements, a design was decided upon which reflects modern research findings for optimum learning for primary aged children.

The HEAD Project (Holistic Evidence and Design) was conducted by Salford University in the UK in 2015 and is the first time that clear evidence of the effect on users of the overall design of the physical learning space has been isolated in real life situations. This formed the basis for the design.

Pupils spend a large proportion of their day at school and consequently the physical characteristics of spaces does impact on their experience. The single most important finding from the research is that there is clear evidence that the physical characteristics of primary schools does impact on pupils’ learning progress in reading, writing and mathematics.

There are three main aspects of the design which affect learning, the first being naturalness.

  • Good natural light helps to create a sense of physical and mental comfort, and its benefits seem to be more far-reaching than merely vision. The soft and diffused quality of natural light, and its subtle changing value and colour, cannot be replicated by lighting.
  • It is important that air quality is maintained through good ventilation both natural and mechanical.
  • Temperature needs to be monitored to ensure pupils do not report discomfort, and that their achievement and performance is not allowed to deteriorate as attention decreases.
  • The aim is always to provide good quality conditions for the production and reception of desirable sounds. Comfortable and clear auditory perception, along with freedom from background noise not only improves communication but also promotes working and learning efficiency.
  • Research provides evidence of profound benefits of the experience of nature for children, with their greater plasticity and vulnerability. It is argued that the quality of life in a school is much enhanced when plenty of useable outdoor space is present.

Our design embraces all these factors. All areas are bright and have natural light flooding into them. The design allows for a natural air flow as well as providing adequate mechanical air conditioning which maintains both air quality and a suitable temperature. All classrooms have acoustic pin-board between adjoining walls and floating ceilings along with carpets in certain areas, all planned to reduce noise. The four specific classroom blocks allow the different age groups to not be disturbed by younger children.  The breakout areas, in all blocks, that lead directly onto age appropriate playgrounds allow the pupils to easily access outside at any time.

The second design feature that affects learning is known as Individualisation.

  • Flexibility is a key design requirement offering a variety of opportunities for different modes of learning. Classrooms with clear breakout zones or breakout rooms are found to impact positively on learning. Younger pupils, who spend a lot of their time engaged in play-based learning, benefit from a larger number of different learning zones.
  • Ownership, physiology and psychology research indicates that personalization of space is an important factor in the formation of an individual’s identity and sense of self-worth. It is agreed that intimate and personalised spaces are better for absorbing, memorizing and recalling information.
  • Navigation is made easier by use of landmarks and clear differentiation between different parts of the school

Our design allows for flexibility with ready access to breakout areas, meeting/quiet rooms on each level, specialist rooms and also a range of reading areas. The classrooms will have floor to ceiling pin-board allowing pupils to easily display their work and pupils will also have their own storage drawer. The décor in each block will be age appropriate enabling each pupil to feel safe within their own environment.

The third design feature that affects learning is known as Stimulation

  • When discussing colour in an educational context, the choices can be seen as a matter of preference, or from a functional learning perspective. It has been concluded that coloured environments have significant effects on pupil’s learning activity and their well-being. Light walls with a feature wall highlighted in a brighter colour, contributes to an appropriate background level of stimulation. Bright colours on fitments, e.g. floors, desks and chairs can be introduced as accents to the overall environment.

The interior design of the school has been carefully constructed with regard to these findings. The colours chosen for each area are age appropriate and, while the break out areas offer a greater degree of stimulation the classrooms are of a more simple design. This will allow the pupils to take ownership of the classroom by displaying their own work.

The whole design of POWIIS Primary has been developed with pupils’ optimum learning at its heart.