The schools of the UK are facing a number of challenges at the moment; not least of this is the continuing rise in pupil numbers. The need to squeeze greater numbers of pupils into buildings designed with much smaller intakes in mind is forcing a lot of schools to compromise on other aspects of their learning environment. Add in changing curriculums and, often, squeezed budgets and creating the best possible learning environments becomes a bigger challenge than ever before.
One of the most valuable assets a classroom can have is flexibility. The more choices a learning space offers the better. It opens up a whole new variety of activities and teaching methods, and much more room for experimentation and innovation in how classes are structured. It's as simple and as powerful as that. In most cases, mobile and easily-to-rearrange furniture and a variety of tools and technologies are the hallmarks of a flexible and versatile learning space.
Don't Underestimate Storage Solutions
Storage solutions might seem like a necessary if uninteresting practical consideration rather than an integral part of a quality learning space. But the truth is, storage is such a big practical consideration that it plays and integral role in the creation of a learning space. Part of creating an effective learning space is maximising the resources available and minimising the toll this takes on the space left for students. Storage solutions are the way to pursue this goal, and can also make the difference between an ordered and pleasant learning environment and a cluttered, crowded one. Creative solutions such as in-chair storage and even good old-fashioned in-desk storage can maximise classroom space, prevent cluttered desktops, and leave space on walls for displays and learning materials.
Seek Student Opinions
When planning alterations, enhancements, or even complete refurbishments of learning spaces, it is never a bad idea to seek the opinions of the students so that you can take them into account. After all, it is the students who are the end users of a classroom, and it is they who are doing the learning. The things they feel they would benefit from in a classroom and its facilities, the challenges they face in the classroom at present, and the things that would make a more comfortable environment for them are absolutely some of the most useful factors you can take into account.
Use Alternative Spaces
If you are running out of space to do everything you would like to do within the classroom, then think about how other spaces in the school could be used or adapted to serve as learning environments. This can include school halls or, especially, the school grounds. Outdoor areas are not only spacious and mentally stimulating environments for holding lessons in, but they also offer a wealth of resources and potential activities for a wide range of subjects, particularly arts and sciences. Installing dedicated resources or structures will make the outdoor spaces of your school all the better and more flexible for lessons, but even without adaptation they are not only a solution to a problem but a valuable resource in their own right.
Author Bio: Andy Swain is the Managing Director of SAS Shelters, a family-run business specialising in the design, manufacture and installation of a variety of products for schools including school canopies, shelters, walkways and playground shades.