continued from No. 4
The Shape of Schools to Come
“School design stops being about moving large volumes of children
“Many corridors can disappear; learning space grows significantly and discipline
improves too,” says Prof Heppell.
Western Heights College in Victoria, Australia, saw a dramatic improvement in pupil
behaviour after they removed walls between classrooms.
This has not only allowed more freedom of movement for pupils, but for teachers, too, who
are now able to collaborate in lessons more easily when they want to.
Copenhagen’s Hellerup School has developed a much more open plan approach than the
typical Victorian or Edwardian secondary schools that pepper this country.
A wide, wooden staircase doubles as a central assembly hall and a lecture theatre where
children use the stairs as seats.
The flexibility with which such a space can be used is key to its success, Mr. Watson
“When I think about what is the future of learning, what will education be like in 50
years’ time – although I’ve been in education for more than 30 years – I have to
admit that I don’t know,” he says.
This means schools of the future have to be large-scale open spaces with multiple uses and
furniture that can be moved, re-shaped and tucked away, for when it’s not needed, he
His redesign of the library at Glasgow Caledonian University features inflatable
igloo-like offices which can be blown up when a little bit of privacy is required.
Likewise movable canopies can be wheeled over tables temporarily for all-important
acoustic protection from the noise that comes with open-plan space.
Director of the British Council for School Environments Ty Goddard agrees the key to
planning schools for future generations is much more complex than just smashing down the
His organisation has produced an Ideas Book to give a helping hand to teachers and
officials involved in the process.
“To knock down walls is very refreshing – but it can be a nightmare acoustically
Schools like Hellerup work, he says, because they and the pupils were at the heart of the
He says: “Allowing them to have an input means the spaces are relevant and there is a
sense of co-creation.”
Mr. Goddard says: “I am not saying let’s create a 1,000 Hellerups, the design has to
be relevant to where we are at.”
“But if you give respect you get respect.”
Another key feature of defining the shape of tomorrow’s schools, he says, has to be the
technology of tomorrow.
“The internet generation already have ICT-rich lives, they have a sophisticated
understanding of technology, and sophisticated gaming devices, but it is a sophisticated
job harnessing technology for learning.”
For Professor Heppell, the answer is not to compete with that technology but to allow it
into the school and use it in a productive way.
“It isn’t about the ICT system that we have built – it’s about reaching out to the
systems that are already out there,” he says.
As the technology changes, so will the school.
As the headmaster of Hellerup School, Knud Nordentoft, puts it: “The school building is
never finished; experience it and rebuild it over time.”
Perhaps that is the key lesson for the future.
By Hannah Goff
BBC News education reporter