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Classroom Design Concept

Redesigning a learning space at Whitefield Primary School Case Study 

Whitefield Primary School had an opportunity to redesign the learning space for their two year 6 classrooms. After discussions they sought specialist advice on how to design a room around the needs of the learner, rather than the institution.

The results have been positive for both learners and teachers. This case study explores the complex inter relationship between furniture, pedagogy, technology and other environmental factors such as, lighting, textures and spaces to work.

Introduction to the learning space redesign

'We have significant impacts of trauma and ACE (Adverse Child Experiences) in the school.  And we wanted to create an environment that really supported children to feel safe, to feel supported no matter what their needs were, and to feel as if they mattered and were included when they came to school. So we worked actually with organisation called TPC Therapy, who really focus on therapeutic approaches to supporting children from their attachment and trauma difficulties, to design these spaces in a way that supported those children to have comfortable seating, to feel that they were able to sit and be calm and access their learning throughout the day as calmly as possible and as safely as possible. So that's what we've done. 

Marie Beale - Deputy Headteacher

How and why have you redesigned the learning space?

'Every inch of the space has been designed to support the children's emotional well being and regulation as well as supporting them to learn effectively so the children choose where they are going to sit. The spaces are designed to facilitate communication and collaboration at times, but also for those children who perhaps would normally have a space away from everyone else, they are able to stay in the room and continue to learn, even though they've maybe got some significant mental health issues themselves.'

Marie Beale - Deputy Headteacher

Reaction and impact to the redesigned space

'When the children first saw the room, they were thrilled and felt they felt very special. They talked about that transition for them from five to six and feeling like they were an important group of children and people had done this for them. So in terms of value, in self-worth, it's been really significant for them. I think it just says that in 'this place I am cared for, people want me to thrive and they have created an environment to support that.'  We've had to teach some children how to look after that. And there are little bits of damage here and there where children are maybe used when dysregulated to hitting out, lashing out against things. And we've had to work on that and that's an ongoing process with some of them. But I think, on the whole, it's supported them to feel valued first and foremost.'

Marie Beale - Deputy Headteacher

What advice would you give to others? 

'You could look at this and think this is quite gimmicky, or you're following a trend a bit like maybe you would follow a trend with maybe a knowledge organiser, for example, or a working wall or hessian on the walls,  for example. But what we're doing at Whitefield at the forefront of things is looking at the individual needs of our learners and thinking, what do they need to do? I think the key is not to let the space overawe you and dictate your thoughts. A classroom is a classroom, but at the forefront of anything is the children. Whatever decisions you make ultimately as an adult or how you set up your room, it's always got to put the children first, and particularly in year six, what do they need to be able to do to be able to make that transition to high school successful?'

David Shaw - Year 6 Teacher and Computing Lead

Are 'Working Walls' effective? 

'I've always been of the mind with working walls that it is the 10% that need the working wall are generally the children that don't need to access it and the ones that you do need to access it don't tend to look at it - so it does become wallpaper and quickly becomes out of date. What we found by not having working walls is it doesn't have an impact at all'. We have used technology to our advantage to create a virtual working wall which is always at children's disposal through Google Classroom '

David Shaw - Year 6 Teacher and Computing Lead

What role do digital platforms play in the room design?

'We've looked at the needs of the children in relation to the layout of the room. And then we've thought about what are our technological needs and how is that going to help our learners become more independent and be able to access the learning that they need at their pace to be able to progress through their journey. It's adaptive teaching with not only the space but obviously alongside the technology.'

David Shaw - Year 6 Teacher and Computing Lead

Tour of the redesigned room

'So on every table in our rooms, we have foliage which just adds to that sort of a calming environment. And what we like about the foliage is a lot of our neurodiverse learners, because of the textures, like to feel and play. So every plant is different for that feel and that texture aspect. And the other thing we've added is soft lighting. So within here, we have soft lighting, which helps to sort of play on that idea of calmness and tranquillity. So sometimes, within the room with the low lighting, we turn the large lights off, and we have our low lighting on, particularly when we do things like reading or when we need to use technology on the screen. Just to aid that sort of calm approach and so everyone is ready and has got themselves focused for what needs to be done.'

David Shaw - Year 6 Teacher and Computing Lead

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