Innovative £320k development aids pupils’ wellbeing 

Alsager School's 320k development

School children in Cheshire are enjoying a renewed sense of health and wellbeing, following a ground-breaking project at Alsager School. The £320k development has provided students with space to enjoy the fresh air – whatever the weather. Tasked with overseeing the design, build and installation of a sleek new ETFE canopy to enclose what was previously an open courtyard, Access North Build has made waves within the education sector with its industry-first solution. Yorkshire-headquartered Access North Build designed, developed and installed a pioneering solution, a lightweight steel space frame – the first of its kind supporting an ETFE membrane in the UK – erected to span the quad, thus enclosing the area beneath. Alsager School site manager, Matt Harris, explained: “Fresh air plays a pivotal part in the wellbeing and health of people of all ages. Creating a space which allows students to ‘go outside’ while providing protection from the elements – including rain and solar shielding – is key to supporting their development.” Engineered to carry more weight over a greater area – in order to provide plenty of natural light and promote student wellbeing – the greatest challenge was the location and layout of the outdoor space, which was enclosed by existing buildings on all sides. As a result, the superstructure – which is over 400 square feet in size – had to be assembled in the school car park before being carefully manoeuvred over the establishment and precisely into position on the pre-installed locating bolts. Access North Group managing director, Berenice Northcott added: “This type of ETFE enclosure provides an extremely beneficial space for organisations within the education sector where student wellbeing is crucial. Additionally, the new ETFE canopy has a design life of 70 years providing it is regularly maintained, but if the time comes when it is no longer required, the ETFE membrane and steel space frame are recyclable, extending the environmental-friendliness of the build with the circular economy in mind. “We relished the challenges of this particular project. Craning a huge space frame over a school and courtyard – which was bordered on all sides – without damaging buildings or people, was a testament to the planning, organisation and attention to detail of the team. The new roof has transformed a previously under-utilised area into a light and airy multifunctional space, resulting in a positive impact on staff and pupils.”  

5 Top Design Tips for Increasing Productivity in Your Learning Space

Modern classrooms design

Revision and coursework are regular occurrences for students across the country, and it’s important when they’re working through either of these, they’re motivated and productive. The learning environment students are in can drastically affect productivity, and that’s where schools, colleges and universities can help. Here, Demco Interiors discusses five ways you can amend your learning space to help students’ concentration levels and productivity. Learning Space Layout The layout of your learning space is crucial when it comes to productivity. For some students who are studying or working, they’ll need a quiet space they can sit in to focus; whereas for group projects, a collaborative area is needed so they can bounce ideas off each other.  Ideally, your learning space will accommodate both of these. Having little cubicles is great for students who focus best in quiet environments, where they can shut the door and escape the noise. However, having open areas with sofas and tables can really encourage groups to get together and discuss ideas, but these need to be kept separate from each other. When it comes to managing noise levels, another aspect to consider is the flooring. Carpeted floors can help to reduce noise travelling, as can installing freestanding screens at the end of each desk. For students trying to concentrate on their work, this can go a great way towards helping increase their productivity. Use of Colours You may think that minimalistic creams, greys and beiges are the way forward when create a tranquil environment to study and come up with creative ideas, but you’d be wrong. In fact, workspaces that have those particular colour palettes reportedly leave people using them sad and depressed. The top three colours to help increase productivity are green, blue and yellow. Why? Well, because green and blue are associated with nature, they promote wellbeing, and improve focus and efficiency. Yellow on the other hand, can inspire innovation and creativity, with the connotations of this colour being energy, optimism, and freshness. If you want to use red in your learning space, then you should consider this carefully. Whilst some students can find it inspiring, for others it can cause an increase in heartrate and feelings of panic. So, if you do decide to use red, then you should use it sparingly to draw attention to details in your workspace that are particularly important (e.g. signs). Plants Psychologists state that a learning space with no pictures or other distractions is “the most toxic space” that a human can be in. Exeter University recently conducted some research, which noted that people were 15% more productive on average when plants were introduced into a work or learning space. In fact, it was found that just one plant per square meter substantially increased productivity. There’s been countless amounts of research done on the benefits of plants in the workplace, which can easily be applied to learning spaces too. In fact, the University of Technologyin Sydney found that the introduction of plants into a room could result in a 58% drop of anger, 44% drop in hostility, 38% drop in fatigue, and a 37% drop in tension.  So, if you’re looking to improve productivity in your educational workspace, then decorating it with plants is a good place to start. Daylight and Fresh Air Poor quality air can lower performance by 10%, a 2006 analysis found. Not only can airless rooms make people who sit in it sick; it drastically reduces productivity too… which isn’t great if students are spending time revising for their exams in there. If your learning space is in the centre of a large city like London, then unfortunately, simply opening a window isn’t the answer – the air pollution and traffic noise won’t help with productivity at all! However, there’s a way to achieve fresh air without opening a window… plants. Photosynthesis purifies air in learning spaces, as carbon dioxide is transformed into oxygen.  The other important thing needed to increase productivity is daylight. Many offices don’t have windows, and it’s a similar situation for learning spaces too. People who work in a space with windows are exposed to 173% more daylight than those who don’t. That results in an extra 46 minutes of sleep on average every single night – helping with concentration, motivation and productivity. Encourage Breaks Students who enter your workspace at 9am, leave at 9pm, and sit at their desk the whole time aren’t going to be studying or working productively. Putting up signs about the benefits of breaks, to help encourage them to leave their desks every once in a while. Research has found that “spacing” can really help with productivity levels: for example, revising for an hour over the space of a week is much more productive than studying for 7 hours straight. Signs that suggest students take a 15 minute break after every hour of revision can help them to go outside, have a stretch and look at a different view. Then, when they’re back, their brain will be ready for more revision. After all, studying is tiring, and it can be very easy to lose concentration.  To conclude, there are many ways you can help your learning space to improve student productivity. These five tips don’t require much effort, but can help your students to enjoy higher levels of concentration, motivation, and of course… productivity. 

The Perfect Finish: Two Schools Score Dulux Smarter Spaces £10,000 Design Prize

Two lucky schools have been announced as winners of the annual Dulux Smarter Spaces competition and are each set to receive £10,000 worth of colour and design services. Lawley Primary School in Telford and Highdown School & Sixth From Centre in Reading will revitalise their education environments with help from the leading paint manufacturer’s Smarter Spaces team, which puts pupils at the heart of design in schools. As part of their prize, the schools received a surprise visit from the Dulux Dog as well as Matthew Burton, star of TV’s Educating Yorkshire and ambassador for the campaign, to celebrate their win. The initiative promotes the concept of ‘learner-led design’ and the effective use of colour in schools and encourages pupils to be actively involved in the decoration planning process. Lawley Primary School will use the money to transform their entrance hall and main corridor, while Highdown School are set to turn an old technology classroom into an inspiring art and photography studio. The competition was launched as research carried out by Dulux revealed that a staggering two thirds of schools lacked the funding to make basic refurbishment improvements, with an overwhelming majority of teachers and head teachers considering the school environment to affect pupils’ academic life.  Schools had to submit a 300-word entry explaining why they should win the £10,000 transformation and how they would make use of the funding. The final winner was chosen by a panel of judges, including Matthew Burton and education expert, Professor Stephen Heppell. Becky Orton, Senior Brand Manager for Dulux Smarter Spaces, comments: “We’re delighted to announce the winners of this year’s competition. We work with schools across the country to design learning spaces that are not only inspiring and stimulating, but also meet the needs of the busy school environment. Our decoration and design packages are tailored to a school’s needs, offering services to suit every budget. We can’t wait to get to work on these projects!” About the scheme  The Dulux Smarter Spaces service helps schools get the most out of their environment within their budget and allows teachers and head teachers to focus on running the school. From creating an oasis of calm to building engaging classroom displays or focus walls, the initiative champions a range of ways to make simple additions to learning environments that can make a big difference to learning outcomes. Using Ofsted criteria as a starting point, Dulux Trade identified five areas of focus where the design of the environment can support teaching and learning: to inspire engagement, improve building function, promote wellbeing, improve teaching and learning experience and encourage positive attitudes.