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A new Forest School in Manchester

Challenging preconceptions about standardised school design

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Leckhampton C of E Primary School

The matrix is a fantastic way to benchmark where a school is in its practice.

What is Good Leadership?

The ‘What is Good Leadership?’ toolkit provides a holistic approach to developing the essential leadership skills within a school. It has been developed over 5 years working with schools in a wide range of contexts and drawing on national and international research. WIGL? is written by Heather Clements and Ann O’Hara, both highly experienced educational consultants, who have worked with experts within specific areas to ensure that the descriptors in the toolkit truly represent the best practice nationally for each role identified. The accessible matrix format outlines a progression in the key skills of leadership, which can be used to identify and support potential leaders and new leaders, as well as to evaluate and guide the progressive development of experienced leaders. It is positive, cumulative and builds on strengths. Users are quickly able to assess where performance sits either individually or collectively, noting strengths, and where there are gaps or aspects to improve in current practice. The WIGL supports the planning to improve practice as an individual and leadership team.

What is Good Leadership? (WIGL)

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A toolkit designed to support the development of leadership in primary schools, clearly linked to Ofsted criteria for leadership and management

We have used the What is Good Leadership? toolkit to develop our middle leaders… We are now using it to inform performance management. Headteacher – James Cambell Primary School Barking and Dagenham

Key features: • Constructive and developmental • Building skills and knowledge based on clear descriptors • Supporting self evaluation and personal development • Supporting whole school evaluation and professional development planning • Informing performance management and job descriptions • Enabling a 360° view of an individual or whole school leadership team

The What is Good Leadership? tools provide an excellent basis for professional development, accountability, job descriptions and appraisal targets. The framework works well for me and undoubtedly the improved clarity around attributes of outstanding leadership have contributed to our recent outstanding inspection judgement.

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Headteacher - Upton Cross School - Newham



hen we looked at the wonderful contributions for this issue of Learning Spaces we were excited by the fact that our colleagues across the sector refuse to accept a ‘dumbed down’ approach to learning environments.

Thoughtful architects like Nicholas Hare, Haverstock, Architecture PLB and Atkins, continue to meet the needs of a wide range of clients whether the emphasis is on delivering to tight budgets, innovating in the University sector, providing high quality modular solutions, or delighting children with the most complex needs. Project teams like the one Alex Ward describes will always want to work in collaborative ways, understanding that developing a joined up approach within and between the delivery and client teams is the best way to ensure good outcomes for young people. And passionate teachers like Ceri-Ann Clark and Juliette Heppell will always find ways to make sure that their learning spaces keep pace with the needs of their students – even if it takes a great deal of their time, energy and commitment to make it happen! So in this issue of Learning Spaces we celebrate the fact that our colleagues are just too professional, too ethical, and too smart to do anything less than their best.

Gareth Long Co-editor

Yet there are still some areas where we need to see more progress. Jenny Thomas’ article on Post Occupancy Evaluation could not be more timely. We are approaching yet another general election with no hard evidence of what makes an effective learning environment. We need to gather data to influence the policy makers if we want to have a strong voice. If Government won’t do it, shouldn’t we find a way to come together and make it happen? Finally, with David Jakes excellent piece on digital environments in the United States, we look ahead to our International Issue, drawing on some of the good and emerging practice from around the world. You won’t want to miss it. Get in touch if you want to contribute to Learning Spaces by sharing your views, showcasing your projects, or telling us your experiences. In the meantime – keep innovating!

Sharon Wright Co-editor

VOL 2:1


Vol 2:1


A new Forest School in Manchester Philip Watson reflects on a project which challenges the preconceptions of standardised school design.

Learning Spaces is an independent magazine. The views expressed in signed articles do not necessarily represent those of the magazine. The magazine cannot accept any responsibility for products and services advertised within it.


Editorial Office

Howard Sharron

Learning Spaces is published by Imaginative Minds Ltd, 309 Scott House House, Gibb Street, Birmingham, B9 4DT Tel: 0121 224 7599 Fax: 0121 224 7598

Editors Gareth Long & Sharon Wright DESIGN MANAGER: Devinder Sonsana FOR ADVERTISING: Tell: 0121 224 7599

2 Learning Spaces Vol 2:1

Email: Website: Š Imaginative Minds 2014 ISSN 2043-6904 No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the publisher.

Regulars 01 Editorial

Featured Articles 06 A search for types in school design Nicholas Hare describes three recent projects that use a consistent approach to meet the needs of very different schools.



06 12 A Digital classroom for the Third Millennium – One Schools Response

60 Why Post-Occupancy Evaluation matters for schools

Ceri-Ann Clarke discusses the positive impact on learning following a total overhaul of her classroom.

Dr Jenny Thomas from Performance Consultancy Ltd looks at why evaluating recently built schools can tell us a great deal about how we should be spending limited resources in the future.

28 Gateway to the Valleys School Alex Ward explains why collaboration at every level has delivered a building fit for the whole community.

36 Students designing their own learning space Teacher Juliette Heppell outlines strategies for schools considering this innovative approach.

66 Social Learning? Rachel Shaw reflects on designing social learning spaces for Higher Education.

72 Digital Spaces and a New Ecology of Learning David Jakes discusses the ever increasing range of digital options to enhance students’ learning.

46 Living life positively Leading Education architects Haverstock on pushing the boundaries of Special Educational Needs design at their recently completed ‘upside down’ school in the London Borough of Lambeth.

Volume 2:1 Learning Spaces 3

Gareth Long

Dr. Zenna Atkins

Ollie Bray

Prof. Antony Eddison

Hannah Jones

Michelle Newell

Katy Owen-Reece

Kati Pusey

Dianne Smith

Dr. Jenny Thomas

Alison Watson

Dr. Sharon Wright


the-learning-crowd offers a synergetic

team approach to defining and solving education issues in the UK and internationally. We deliver excellence, dedication and knowledge through responding to specific briefs; our team of leading and trusted education consultants will deliver:

• •

Education led designs of learning spaces

School leadership training, support and evaluation

• • • •

Governance and inspection programmes

ICT national strategies through to classroom implementation

Evaluation of spaces, strategies and projects Curriculum and ICT development Stakeholder engagement

To find out more about the-learning-crowd visit our website For a personal one to one conversation about your requirements, contact Gareth Long, Director: E T 07873 692971

School Leadership Today The most authoritative and independent publication for school leaders, School Leadership Today delivers analytical and good practice articles to support leadership staff throughout the school.

In our upcoming issue: Rethinking schools and schooling A new six-part series by prominent educationalist, John West-Burnham, challenging a range of established beliefs and practices about the nature of successful school leadership. Each article will propose radical alternative approaches to the central issues such as closing the achievement gap, securing inclusion and equality, and focusing on family and the community as the key drivers of student wellbeing. Preparing teachers for disruptive or challenging students For many teacher trainees, the idea of facing disruptive and defiant students fills them with dread. Dom Brockway and Merv Lebor share ideas about how to prepare trainees to deal with bad behaviour.

Aspirations – A question of push or pull? It’s fashionable to see low aspirations as the root of innumerable educational ills, but do high aspirations really pull pupils towards higher achievement, or is it pupils’ low achievement that pushes them towards low aspirations? Loic Menzies investigates. “Am I doing the right thing?” How do we know we are good when ‘good’ keeps changing? Ann O’Hara explores ways schools can effectively use data in their current context, while also preparing their staff for future unknown expectations of assessment.

To subscribe to School Leadership Today: Call the Subscriptions Orderline

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What is Good Teaching?

A framework for observing and improving teaching and Availab learning, fully aligned NOW to le order Price to the Ofsted inspection £1 25 + process VAT Going beyond Ofsted!


If you are striving towards being

At least 25 per cent of Ofsted’s judgement on your school will officially be about your quality of teaching and learning. In fact this is an underestimate. The inspectors’ view of teaching and learning in your school, and as importantly, what systems you have in place to monitor and improve it, will colour the whole Ofsted report. The WIGT (What is Good Teaching?) Toolkit is more than just a lesson observation tool, it’s a system for monitoring and mentoring for improved teacher performance and can be used at classroom, department or whole school level. The WIGT has been developed over many years and used in schools and local authorities across the country.

outstanding you need, in Sir Michael Wilshaw’s own words: “...a clear and demanding criteria for a school to be judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. A good school should have at least good teaching, and an outstanding school should have outstanding teaching.”

“We recommend the What is Good Teaching? Toolkit to all of our schools. It has become a key tool in helping schools to look more closely at learning in the classroom and to identify next steps for improvement. It is a rigorous and versatile framework which can be used to support teacher self evaluation or for leaders to identify whole school areas to work on.” Principal Adviser for School Improvement – West Berkshire This is precisely what WIGT is! A unique quality standard for teaching and learning that models what teaching will look like if it is outstanding, good or requires improvement. Uniquely however, it manages to make the implicit qualities of excellent teaching and learning explicit (what outstanding teachers do, often without realising or being able to relate to others) and enables observers and the observed to recognise strengths and areas for development. The skills of these teachers can then be used to inform other teachers in the school.

Used consistently it enables everyone to have a clear understanding of Ofsted’s expectations and support the drive towards outstanding teaching and learning for every child.

What is in WIGT?

The toolkit includes a series of formats which allow for easy recording of insightful ‘judgements’ about the observed teacher/s’ performance. The system is based on what teachers can do rather than what they can’t do and is therefore very unthreatening. However, it makes very clear how far they have to travel to reach the next standard level. In detail the Toolkit includes: ■■ Teaching quality standards for all Key Stages including the Foundation Stage ■■ Formats for teacher self evaluation ■■ Formats to enable pupils to evaluate their own learning ■■ A framework to support student/pupil support work scrutiny ■■ Materials to support the development of a whole school policy for teaching and learning ■■ A manual to guide the lesson observer ■■ A pen drive/USB with all the pages so that they can be easily photocopied and a Powerpoint explaining how WIGT should be used The toolkit will ensure that the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) are confident to make judgements on the quality of teaching and learning. It will enable paired observations to moderate judgements, ensuring the school achieves the consistency that Ofsted expects, leading to sustained and embedded good practice.

Please send orders to: Imaginative Minds Ltd, 309 Scott House, Gibb Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B9 4DT T: 0121 224 7599 or F: 0121 224 7598 E:

Think Piece – Models in school design

A search for types in school design Nicholas Hare describes three recent projects that use a consistent approach to meet the needs of very different schools.


he 2011 James Review on the future of school building in the UK attempted to answer the question of how to build new schools without spending too much money. Dominated by businessmen, it propounded the idea of standard solutions, seeming to suggest that new schools or parts of schools could be swung into place like a Bailey bridge or indeed a Tesco store. The responses from designers and constructors have ranged from developing standard construction systems (e.g using precast elements) to standard deep-plan designs for whole schools. In our experience, individual schools usually expect designs to respond to their own educational priorities as well as the particular qualities and constraints of their site. This demand for particularity is usually tempered by the need for ‘loose-fit’ buildings which are likely to be able to accommodate changing patterns of use. Three of our recent projects suggest that one way forward may be to focus on intermediate scale building elements or buildings which can then be assembled in diverse ways. The three schools have very different educational programmes and very different sites, but the basic building block used in each is very similar. The building block responds to the need to establish intermediate scales of social grouping within the very large population of a typical secondary school. This may take the form of academic departments, ‘houses’, ‘colleges’ or the so-called ‘schools within schools’. What they have in common is the need to develop a sense of identity at a scale that is greater than that of an individual class, but smaller than that of a whole school. Public sector secondary schools in the UK may

 Learning Spaces Volume 2:1

range from six forms of entry up to twelve. With five years and nominally 30 in each class, this gives pupil populations of 900 –1800, with in many cases a sixth form of perhaps 200-400 as well. When staff are added, the result is a large social organisation. Schools usually seek to strengthen each person’s sense of identity with the whole school, while also stressing individual development within it. The individual development may be fostered by the use of IT, but the need to learn in groups and the demands for socialisation remain. The challenge for the designer is to develop spaces which will be suitable for various group sizes – not just a standard classroom – while achieving reasonably efficient use of space. At its simplest a secondary school could be seen as a number of learning spaces and social spaces linked by circulation routes. The learning spaces will include specialist spaces – for music, sport, design and technology and so on – as well as general classrooms. The social spaces will include the restaurant and hall. In addition, there are supporting spaces for staff and administration. One rigorous example, using linear circulation, is Foster’s Lycée Albert Camus in Fréjus, designed 20 years ago. Since then, educationalists have drawn attention to the importance of spaces beside the classroom and to the undesirability of the whole population moving past the classroom door. This has given rise to schemes with a hierarchy of circulation, and with learning ‘clusters’ attached to primary circulation routes. These clusters have taken many forms, but typically consist of classroom-like spaces around a central space, which may be a simple corridor or something more generous, allowing for informal learning within it. Some have been tapered,

Think Piece – Models in school design

forming a ‘strawberry’ in plan, others curved, others straight. In the three examples that follow, rectangular clusters form the basic building blocks of the design. The first is on three storeys and the others are on two. Their cross-sectional dimensions are very similar, governed by the need for good daylight and comfortable movement. In each, there is a central void which contains a staircase, so that the floors are united both visually and practically. The sense of identity of the group inhabiting the cluster is thus strengthened, whether it be a ‘mini-school’ or a department. Crown Woods Community College, Greenwich – Pavilions linked by colonnades

Volume 2:1 Learning Spaces 

Think Piece – Models in school design

At Crown Woods Community College in Greenwich, the headteacher’s determination to provide ‘humanscale education’ led to a brief for three colleges or mini-schools, each with 450 students, with provision for the addition of a fourth. Each college has its own head and senior management team and each has its own building, a three-storey pavilion. Each pavilion is about 21m wide, with quite conventional classrooms facing north and south, and a central space which includes a linear stair rising to the two upper floors. The central space is glazed at each level. The colleges include science laboratories, which are placed on the top floor. The school estimates that students spend between 60% and 70% of their time in their college. The colleges are ranged along the east side of the site, each with its own playground. They are linked by a covered walkway, formed in precast concrete. The colonnade is one of a pair, running north-south, with additional pavilions completing a chequerboard pattern across the campus (the first plan placed all the pavilions around the perimeter, as at the University of Virginia, but the partial infill of the chequerboard was adopted as giving more habitable external spaces). The central sixth-form

college and the design and technology wing adopt the basic form of the colleges but are longer overall. The other pavilions are adapted to their particular uses: the single storey dining hall gives onto the central square, as does the glazed north wall of the main hall. The pavilions are all clad in textured brickwork with simple rectangular openings. The basic palette of brickwork, white precast concrete, dark grey aluminium and greenery contributes to a sense of order and sobriety which have led students to compare it to a university and staff to comment on how much behaviour have improved in their new building. This may have something to do with the fact that, by design, everything is visible. This idea of making a new school with independent pavilions is unusual in the public sector and perhaps closer to independent schools that have grown over time, often with separate houses. It is only possible, of course, with a reasonably extensive site and a budget which can encompass a lift in each multi-storey pavilion and long distribution routes for services.

Kettering Science Academy Five clusters around a circular courtyard, with the hall and sports hall on the north side. The library and restaurant face into the courtyard.

 Learning Spaces Volume 2:1

Think Piece – Models in school design

Kettering Science Academy The Central space of a cluster – maximum transparency, with excellent daylight from northlights.

The educational brief for Kettering Science Academy was equally clear, though quite different. The sponsor required individual clusters for quite large departments, with maximum transparency within the clusters and between them and the central spaces. Conventional classrooms were specified, but with glass walls separating them from the shared space of each cluster (these walls have to be double-glazed with a large gap to achieve enough sound reduction). The two-storey cluster has a shared central space at ground level, with a simple balcony surrounding it on the first floor and a dog-leg stair at the internal end. The arrangement maximises the possibilities of overlooking: there is nowhere to hide, for pupils or teachers. The six clusters face each other across three openended courtyards facing south, east and west. The clusters are arranged around an open circular central courtyard, with communal spaces on the north side. Some subtlety is introduced by extending the central courtyard geometry to form balancing egg-shapes towards the east and west on the first and second floors. In this case, the rigorous rectilinear geometry of the cluster is balanced by the more fluent

forms of the central spaces with diagonally arranged lavatories at the interface between clusters. The circulation around the central courtyard makes for easy orientation and – again – maximum overlooking: the courtyard itself is surrounded by glass walls. The transparency of the building’s interior is complemented by the solidity of its exterior: the clusters are enclosed by textured brick walls. The square window openings have deep reveals and horizontal louvres on the south side. The rooflights of the clusters are designed to suite their orientations and minimise solar gain. The simple geometry of the clusters has suited the use of Termadek floors, which combine with the use of groundsource heat pumps to supply tempered air to the learning spaces. The building sits on a southward sloping site and the main entrance on the north side is across a bridge into the first-floor level. The entrance leads in towards the upper level of the double-height library beside the central courtyard, giving visitors an easy grasp of the layout of the academy. In this design, the arrangement of the cluster - with its central space and surrounding rooms – echoes that of the whole building, with its central courtyard surrounded by clusters.

Volume 2:1 Learning Spaces 

Think Piece – Models in school design

Bishop of Rochester Academy The CGI above shows the twinned clusters facing each other across the courtyard. Communal spaces are ranged along the front, with the three-storey science cluster at the far end. The photograph from the dinning area is looking in the same direction.

At Bishop of Rochester Academy, a new eight-form entry academy is organised on the ‘schools within schools’ principle. There are four mini-schools which include sixth-formers, but not science laboratories. The schools were to be paired to allow shared streaming in some subjects. The brief also required a central courtyard, and the retention of a 1980s sports hall.

10 Learning Spaces Volume 2:1

The budget for this project was reduced compared with the two earlier schools (the new austerity), though the space standards were similar. The design for the individual schools was developed as a two-storey cluster with a central stair as at Crown Woods. In this case, the clusters were placed end-to-end, partly so that they could be twinned, but also to define the

Think Piece – Models in school design

central courtyard. The twinned schools form the north and south sides of the courtyard, with communal spaces on the west side and the three-storey science and special needs departments on the east. The existing sports hall is integrated into the layout so that it is not too visible from the courtyard. The layout has the merit of reducing the proportions of external wall – and therefore costs – compared with the other two. The endto-end arrangement also means that fire escape and access to lifts can be more economically managed. As at Crown Woods, the students move between the buildings in the open air, though within the protected courtyard. In this scheme, the new building had to be constructed very close to the old one while it was still occupied. For this reason, a sandwich panel was adopted for the external walls. This minimised disruption and overlooking of the existing school. The insulated panels are cast face-down on brick cladding. They are 7.5m wide, complete with window openings, and the whole internal structure is formed with precast elements. The regular nature of the design lent itself to this form of construction, which helped with speed of construction as well as reducing disruption on a rather challenging site.

Nicholas Hare is a Partner at Nicholas Hare Architects, an award winning practice who work across the education sector including with schools, colleges, universities and specialist medical centres. For more information see http://www.

Standard clusters? These three schemes make contrasting uses of elements whose basic forms are very similar. The clusters in each scheme feel quite different from each other (especially those at Kettering), but their overall dimensional systems are very similar. This observation suggests that it may be practical to develop individual designs for schools which are based on fairly standard intermediate scale elements. At a time when the government and the construction industry are clamouring for efficiency through repetition, this may be a route which still allows individual responses to different sites and educational programmes. Of course there is concern about the potential for dumb repetition, but we should remember the many excellent examples of post-war schools which are only now having to be replaced because of their decaying fabric and poor environmental performance. The greater worry is that the government has now cut its space standards by 15% on top of the reduced unit area costs. This risks a race to the bottom, where educational priorities and design quality take second place to the efficient provision of classrooms separated by corridors.

Volume 2:1 Learning Spaces 11

Things You Should Know – Primary Digital Classroom

A Digital classroom for the Third Millennium – One Schools Response Ceri-Ann Clarke discusses the positive impact on learning following a total overhaul of her classroom.

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Things You Should Know – Primary Digital Classroom


have always been proud of my achievements as a teacher, developing excellent relationships with the children and their parents and striving to ensure that every child fulfills their potential. The primary school I work in; Cadoxton Community Primary School, is situated in Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan with approximately 350 pupils on roll. The majority come from homes which are in a Communities First area and most come from backgrounds which have some degree of social or economic disadvantage. Our school was inspected during the Summer term of 2011 and I was delighted that all my lessons were judged to be outstanding. My standard approach to lessons was very much one of whole class lessons with distinct scaffolded tasks for the children to engage with. A new Headteacher, Janet Hayward1, joined the school in September 2011 and that’s when things began to change.

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Things You Should Know – Primary Digital Classroom

We started afresh to question what good learning and teaching should look like. We began to ask whether we were over supporting the pupils, almost spoon feeding them in learning and preventing them from taking ownership of their own learning? I fully supported this fresh look at our pedagogy, even though it challenged my apparent successful teaching practice! We quickly came to the conclusion that the pupils in our school would benefit from a more independent way of learning. We wanted to provide our children with a more dynamic education, one that inspires them to think creatively, communicate well and be able to solve problems. We visited other schools to gain an insight into different pedagogical approaches.

Technology By integrating new technology into lessons and providing the children with opportunities to engage with independent tasks, I completely changed my approach as a teacher. We had Wi-Fi installed which

14 Learning Spaces Volume 2:1

Things You Should Know – Primary Digital Classroom

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Things You Should Know – Primary Digital Classroom

allowed the use of mobile devices as well as a bank of computers. We also introduced Apple TV into all classrooms. I found that the children within my class really responded well to a new way of working, a new buzz was created with children really taking ownership of their learning. The difference was apparent from the very beginning.

Environment Working in this way meant other changes.To fully support this more independent approach we were forced into considering how the learning environment needed to change. The crucial

16 Learning Spaces Volume 2:1

difference was that we did not need a chair and table for every child as they were no longer all doing the same thing at the same time with direction from me. We also identified that we needed a mix of furniture that would allow for cosy and flexible configurations. We wanted the furniture to fit the learning, rather than the learning fitting the furniture! We “lost” a lot of the chairs and tables fairly quickly and bought in a number of different pieces of furniture. The increase in space we gained meant that we could be even more agile in how we approached every part of the learning and configured the space.

Things You Should Know – Primary Digital Classroom

A Year on A year into this journey of change, we knew there was no going back to traditional approaches. As children had become more independent in their learning, outcomes were steadily improving as well as behaviour. The new strategies adopted were working. Children were happier, parents were happy and I, and other staff, are enjoying the opportunities of facilitating learning. This coincided with a conversation with Gareth Long.2 We talked to him about our ambition to really change the learning environment, to clarify our new vision and to demonstrate our commitment to providing our children with the high quality environment they deserved. With Gareth’s help, we clarified the zones we needed in the classroom. This led us to working with a local company who helped us turn the vision into reality. Education furniture company VS really helped us with some really exciting ergonomic comfortable seating and we worked with BOF who helped us facilitate a lot of this work. During the Easter holiday of 2013 our year six classroom was transformed: ■

■ ■

■ ■ ■

At the back of the classroom there are a bank of 8 computers. These computers are used during every session. Comfy seating for the children to work using iPads /iPods. Coloured lighting is used to create different moods and signal the introduction of new activities or challenges. A writing zone. The tables can be arranged in a variety of ways enabling the children to work as individuals, in pairs or groups depending on the activity undertaken. It also allows direct teaching by staff. A writing wall allowing ideas to be explored and children to share / present ideas to others A reading zone with tiered seating allowing maximum flexibility. A puzzle table at the centre of the room enables the children to work practically and collaboratively, whilst making good use of the projector and ideas wall.

A TV screen with an AppleTV is used to encourage children to collaborate and share their work.

We have found that the use of technology has enhanced the learning that goes on in the classroom. The children continuously invent their own new ways of learning as they feel empowered to do so. The room has given myself and my class the license to really think outside the box in terms of how we structure our day. As one of my pupils says ” Learning is so different in this classroom because we feel excited to come to school everyday. We don’t know exactly what we’ll be doing or how we’ll be learning, we just know it will be different. I know I’m better at maths and working and thinking in groups. When I go to work in another classroom, I’m still able to take those skills with me too”. As teacher, I have seen a real improvement in standards. The children love coming to school because of the classroom and therefore are much more enthusiastic about their learning. They also have a real sense of pride in their classroom which ensures they strive to always give of their best. We are getting lots of visitors to our classroom, from all over the place to see how our learning is improving. We have even had staff from the local secondary school visit to see how our pupils learn, see what they can learning and identify ways to ease the issues of transition and potentially different learning styles pupils may encounter in the secondary school. Our classroom (or Learning Space) is truly a place where we can work together to achieve our school’s vision “Learning and Growing together, being our best forever”.

Ceri Ann Clark

Notes 1. Janet Hayward, Headteacher of Cadoxton Primary School was also Chair of the Welsh Government working group that produced the report “Digital Classrooms for a Digital Age” 2. Gareth Long is Director of education consultancy: ‘the-learning-crowd’ (

Volume 2:1 Learning Spaces 17

Imaginative Minds

Project-Based Learning Resources

Start here to build a serious, thematic and project-based learning resources bank Ofsted’s focus has shifted to the quality of learning… and pupil interaction is the key. Imaginative Minds has created a bank of specially developed project-based learning resources that provide exciting and creative lessons to promote greater interaction and improved learning skills. Project-Based Learning Resources present an in-depth, creative means of developing students’ skills, knowledge and understanding across an integrated curriculum offering a rounded, project-based learning experience. Each project-based learning resource pack includes an extensive selection of worksheets, lesson plans and ideas making authentic links across the curriculum subjects. With a wide range of teaching and learning methods incorporated, every learning style is catered for. Produced on foundations of serious pedagogy, the resource packs have been produced by senior teachers and advisors sharing best practice.

How will Project-Based Learning Resources benefit your school? The projects will help teachers to: • Increase the level of interaction between pupil and teacher • Implement a creative culture across the curriculum • Plan an integrated curriculum based on serious pedagogy • Bridge the gap between high and low achievers with extensive supporting resources • Make coherent links between subjects to increase pupils’ knowledge and understanding • Encourage logical thinking to help pupils connect their understanding of a topic in different contexts • Build pupil confidence in subject areas they may feel less confident in by applying prior knowledge • Build a shared and collaborative school culture • Plan lessons effectively with 24-hour-a-day access to online resource packs

What’s on offer? The highly integrated resource packs cover far-reaching topics through Foundation Stage to Key Stage 2+. As a new subscriber you will have instant access to a year’s worth of projects, including: • Light and Dark – Many subjects in the National Curriculum include the study of light and dark – the most obvious being science. However, the topic can be effectively used as a foundation for Literacy, Numeracy, Art, History and RE lessons. Projects here include: Rainbow Poetry, Coloured Shadows, Photosynthesis and Festivals of Light. • Conservation – Promoting social and ethical responsibility across the curriculum, including Citizenship, Conservation projects include Beastly Stories, What’s in the News?, Deadly Data, A Precious World, Caring for Animals and many more to engage all abilities. • Pole to Pole – A far reaching project exploring the Poles from every angle, from Miraculous Measurements and Icy Shapes in Maths, to Amazing Arctic and Antarctic Animals in Science, to Polar Carvings in Art.

• A River Child – The life of a young Muslim child in Africa – Sets of activities relating to learning outcomes in Geography, Science, Design and Technology, English, Drama and ICT for children aged 9-12. The project provides the opportunity for teachers to introduce RE through the study of Islam as practised by Mohamed, the boy whose story is the focus for the project. • Democracy – A feature of Ofsted is the cultural spiritual, moral and social development of pupils. This project makes Democracy accessible from Key Stage 2, preparing pupils for further progress. Lessons cover Creating a Country, Anarchy and Revolution. • Minibeasts – Projects for use at Foundation Stage to Key Stage 2+, these fascinating investigations into the world of minibeasts include explorations into Pond Maths, Horrid Habitats and Revolting Recipes.

What can you expect in the future? Future Project-Based Learning projects will include: • The Victorians

• Science Crosswords

• Maths Crosswords

• The Romans

• Thinking Through Art

There will be six resource packs per year, priced at an annual subscription cost of £95 (plus VAT), offering an enormous saving on resources that would otherwise cost hundreds of pounds if bought as separate packs. For existing subscribers of Imaginative Minds’ publications, there will be a 50% discount for the first year.


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Showcase – Primary

A new Forest

School in Manchester Philip Watson reflects on a project which challenges the preconceptions of standardised school design.


ime Tree Primary school in Manchester is a newly completed 420-pupil, two form entry primary school, designed by Atkins and constructed by Laing O’Rourke using its new SELECT modular assembly system. It represents a step-change in the Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) approach – for Lime Tree is a ‘forest school’, a highly specialised teaching and learning environment that prioritises outdoor learning and direct engagement with nature. As such, the striking design reflects the school’s desire to be an innovative, education catalyst which inspires children through a positive natureinfused experience where as much learning as possible is delivered outdoors. In order to create exceptional education environments designers rely on clients and end-users having a clear vision for the way in which they want to deliver the curriculum. It is the role of designers to interpret this vision and contractors to realise it. Each facet of this process is interdependent and success demands that each aspect is outstanding. This project began with an exceptional brief.

A brief with a difference The brief called for an existing post-war building to be demolished - save for a hall and administration areas - and a new 1,638m2 extension containing classrooms, circulation areas, courtyards, a nursery, media room, library and dining room. This, however, tells only half the story...

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Showcase – Primary

Volume 2:1 Learning Spaces 21

Showcase – Primary

Alongside these spatial requirements, there was strong desire to capture the special ethos of the school which, as a designated ‘National Support School’, continually looks forward in its educational thinking. Furthermore, its status as a ‘forest school’ called for a design which imagined the new development as a forest, with buildings and landscape combining to create a rich and varied environment to explore and cultivate.

Responsive, intelligent design The design concept responded to the school’s unique role in a very direct and visible way. The design proposals explored how the relationship of the buildings to outside space could be exploited to maximise access and integration of the school’s activities with the surrounding landscape. The solution provides a stimulating learning environment through a series of intimate pavilions which are placed within a nurturing landscape, connected by a network of sheltered external routes and ‘forest clearings’ that define a rich variety of spaces: market gardens, outdoor classrooms as well as places to eat, play and learn. Each pavilion contains four classrooms grouped around a central break-out space. This space connects to a courtyard that enables each pavilion

22 Learning Spaces Volume 2:1

access to a sheltered courtyard that is still open to the elements and enables external learning and play activities to become an extension of the pavilion. Each classroom has views in two directions and transparency and connectivity across the school through these careful positioned windows gives the school an incredibly open and accessible feel. It is possible to stand at node points throughout the school that facilitate transparent views through the pavilions and into the landscape in all directions. This reinforces the idea of the building in its setting – making users aware of their position and of the effects of light and the seasons. External play and learning activities are further supported by the location of storage for all weather clothing, external sinks and wet play areas as well as seating. Architecturally, the elevational treatment strongly links the pavilions to give the impression of one solid form – that of a forest. This elevation is clad in durable coloured panels that resemble the play of light on leaves through a tree canopy. This aesthetic is further enhanced by the use of real tree trunk columns to support the overhanging roof and branch-like timber brise solei. An allowance for future expansion was built-in with an extension of services and utilities, and an

Showcase – Primary

Volume 2:1 Learning Spaces 23

Showcase – Primary

ability to easily add four or eight classrooms with the stand-alone pavilion strategy. Through its use of off-site construction, Lime Tree stands as an exemplar product which can allow schools nationally to meet increasing demographic demands. Unlike other ‘standard’ solutions, however, the ability to combine standard units in different configurations will enable unique and totally flexible solutions to meet differing school cultures and pedagogies. “Although inspired by the ‘Forest School’ ethos, the resulting model is actually appropriate to all primary school teaching, an absolutely wonderful by-product of the unique brief originally responded to in such a highly innovative manner.” Steve Bull, Major Projects Manager,

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Select Lime Tree is the first ‘forest school’ to be constructed using Select Technology, a modular building design system based on a rectangular 3 dimensional steel frames, supported on standard pad foundations on a regularised grid. Part of the Laing O’Rourke supply chain, it allows shorter construction programme periods and reduces the level of labour and time required on site. The technology can be adapted to achieve numerous dimensional formats, but within the constraints of transportation limitations. Wall, floor, roof and internal walls options are almost limitless and can be designed to allow solutions that are adaptable or interchangeable to suit the design brief, the site and to meet planning requirements.

Showcase – Primary

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Showcase – Primary

In addition, the system allows a bespoke design to be developed and fixed earlier in the design process ensuring predictable and accurate initial target costs. Prior to manufacture, the preconstruction phase reduces project risk as the individual units are manufactured off-site under controlled conditions.

Sustainable too The environmental quality of the building was a key design driver, ensuring that natural daylight and fresh air are plentiful and that the wider issues of environmental sustainability were embedded in the building’s design ‘DNA’. The building’s services engineering systems deliver comfortable and light environments, embracing a natural approach incorporating day lighting and low energy assisted ventilation solutions. The systems provided are simple, cost effective and efficient, utilising best practice sustainable design principles. To achieve energy and carbon emission compliance, passive strategies were maximised and building users encouraged to interact with their environment to control it. Enhancements were directed at optimising the building fabric, glazing and structure by using low U-Values and good air tightness. Alongside this was an application of low energy efficient equipment

26 Learning Spaces Volume 2:1

with heat recovery ensuring that active systems run as energy efficiently as possible. These measures aimed to lower energy usage over the lifespan of the building and removed the requirement for investment in on-site renewable energy sources. The result is a low-tech, high performance building that is sympathetic to its surroundings and delivers excellent conditions for learning and teaching. Lime Tree was finished to budget and a full year ahead of the original programme. “An outstanding team of professionals have made the project an enjoyable experience. They have, from design through to construction, ensured that we have been part of the whole process. Their approach is completely client centred and this has meant that a potentially disruptive period of building work has been smooth and hassle-free. This has made for an overall feeling of safety and confidence throughout the whole process.“ Simon Beswick, Executive Head Teacher, Lime Tree Primary School

Collaboration As a progressive authority, Trafford committed to a very collaborative procurement using the North West Construction Hub’s Framework. Projects are let at as early as possible to ensure that client,

Showcase – Primary

constructor and designer come together to form one team at an early stage. This provided a platform for Lime Tree, which saw its successful design and construction realised through extensive engagement and dialogue between all parties. This approach included a number of inclusive stakeholder meetings which gave parents, teachers and members of the local community the opportunity to get involved. What makes Lime Tree stand out in comparison with many modular or standardised school solutions is that the completed project has not been compromised by the construction methodology. The design is a creative and bespoke response to a unique brief – developed through engagement with client and building users. At Lime Tree the innovative use of DfMA has simply helped realise the vision sooner, cheaper and with considerable panache.

Project Team: Architects: Atkins Structural Engineers: Atkins Project Architect: Atkins Design Team: Atkins Client: Trafford Borough Council / Lime Tree Primary School Client Project Management: Trafford Borough Council Funding: Trafford Borough Council MEP Consultant: Atkins Quantity Surveyor: Laing O’Rourke + Select Planning Supervisor: Trafford Borough Council Lighting Consultant: Atkins Main Contractor: Laing O’Rourke + Select

Philip Watson is UK Design Director at Atkins, one of the world’s leading design, engineering and project management consultancies. In the education sector, the company provides a range of services to local authorities, schools, colleges, universities, and other educational organisations.

Volume 2:1 Learning Spaces 27

Things You Should Know – Working in Collaboration

Gateway to the Valleys School

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Alex Ward explains why collaboration at every level has delivered a building fit for the whole community.

Things You Should Know – Working in Collaboration


he new Gateway to the Valleys (G2V) secondary school and community campus represents one of the largest single investments in a shared community and education building in Wales. The new community campus, on an existing 15.8 hectares (39 acres) site, incorporates a 1,570 place comprehensive school for pupils aged 11 to 18 and a 604 sq m dedicated community facility which includes a café, a multi-agency hub, child care unit and various other activities. The school is conceived as a series of ‘colleges’ grouped around a community ‘heart space’ - the geometries are derived from existing axis and from specific references to elements found within the existing context. The scheme won the BREEAM Education Award 2013 and is the first BREEAM Outstanding High School of its type in the UK. It was designed and delivered through BIM, which brought clear benefits to the client, design and construction team alike. The main purpose behind G2V was to improve the standards of teaching and learning by bringing together Ogmore Comprehensive and Ynysawdre Comprehensive schools, and dramatically improve the teaching environment.

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Things You Should Know – Working in Collaboration

When surveying the two existing schools it was apparent that the condition of the general building and all related equipment and furniture was in a below satisfactory state. Heating systems were at a point of non-repair, leaks where apparent, vandalism to both internal and external areas was evident and the FFE and ICT available for both teachers and pupils were of a very poor grading. It would be very hard to argue against the fact that the state of the building and the learning environments was amongst the top contributing factors to the falling numbers at each school.

Getting the strategy right The development of the design looked to: ■

Create a landmark building and grounds that would demonstrate the value placed in the local community. Design a building which would act as a base for

30 Learning Spaces Volume 2:1

■ ■ ■

a multi-agency hub, offering support for young people and the wider community. Create a successful partnership between public, voluntary and private sector groups that would utilise the school and its wider multi use facilities. Design a scheme that excelled both. environmentally and economically Enhance the teaching and learning standards for all stakeholders. Design a scheme that embraced leading technology, innovation and collaborative design and use of space.

In 2011 an executive decision was made by government and headed up by Bridgend County Council to invest in these two education facilities and provide a new building that would house both schools within one area. Davis Langdon were appointed by Bridgend CC to lead cost and project management and thereafter appointed a design

Things You Should Know – Working in Collaboration

team that consisted of Scott Brownrigg (Architect), Arup (Mechanical and Electrical Services) Smart FFE (Furniture, Fixture and Equipment Consultant). The building was to reflect a modern, innovative and collaborative environment. The target for BREEAM Outstanding was set by the client, and through the hard work of all the design team and closely involved stakeholders this was successfully achieved.

What made the project successful? Key learning from the project included:

The client demonstrated clear commitment and leadership from the offset. A collaborative approach to team and project development was consistent though out and largely client led. The client’s willingness and proactive approach to consultation dramatically helped the community and closely connected stakeholders

shape the development. Clear translation of proposed solutions through the use of 3D visualisation produced by the design team. A design that clearly met the initial vision and aspirations of the client. Specific attention to zoned areas to enable the ‘schools within a school’ model to be adopted. In tandem an innovative and flexible FFE design that supported the future developments of curriculum and wider change. Early engagement with the client with key

focus on internal use of space and the ability to develop a future proof environment that integrates leading technology and optimum design of FFE. Attention on whole life costs during the design stages. Specific focus on FFE and ICT to ensure the delivery of a sustainable asset.

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Things You Should Know – Working in Collaboration

Commitment to local employment and business so to leave a positive legacy for the community.

Putting learning first The architectural and design team brief was to always put teaching and learning first. This ethos was carried through the whole project, from the initial adjacencies exercises, to the construction programme and delivery of the scheme.  In order to maximise the efficiency of spaces, the design was developed to make each space work harder to provide more.  One element which reflects this is the flexible teaching spaces. Throughout the building there are a number of sliding walls, enabling spaces to divide into smaller working zones, or opened up into larger multi class spaces.  This not only gave the school the ability to work in a more flexible way, it also meant that the spaces could be utilised for exams when opened up.  By providing individual pupil desks in these spaces, the FFE could also be utilised for exams, negating the need for purchasing additional exam desks, enabling the budget to be spent more efficiently.

Innovative thinking The building was designed to incorporate breakout areas within each wing of the building, providing

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informal areas for independent and group working, as well as additional social space. This concept was also reflected in the external landscaping of the building, with outdoor teaching spaces and informal seating areas to encourage teaching and learning to spread beyond the walls of the building.

Successful Collaboration From the outset project team collaboration was apparent, not only in the working relationships established, but also through the utilisation of BIM. All the design practices worked and developed the building’s design in Revit, ensuring the scheme was fully co-ordinated, from the heights of window sill with fixed benching, to the service runs of the M&E and light switch locations with display boards.   “The whole process has been made more connected by a collaborative design and client team along with the inclusion of an FFE consultant early in the design process. The consultation process enabled the team to move forward with confidence, the Head Teacher’s involvement was also crucial during this time as he was the key to establishing the curriculum on which the whole design was based on” Phil Day – Davis Langdon Project Manager

Things You Should Know – Working in Collaboration

The working relationships established with the client and school team was crucial in the efficiency and success of the overall scheme. Working closely with the school from the early stages of the project enabled the design team to hone and develop the brief quickly, which in turn enabled the detailed design work to progress. “Collaboration is fundamental to the success of any project and the G2V project team collaborated from day one by all signing up to BIM, this meant that each consultancy had to invest in software and training along with co-location of key personnel within each organisation. A lesson learnt here is when embarking on BIM projects ensure that a central server is employed to store the BIM model to allow a check-in and out system and avoid time in circulating the BIM model each time it’s updated”. Phil Day – Davis Langdon Project Manager

What we achieved Some of the key reasons the project was successful include: ■

Upfront actions put in place by the project manager and accompanying consultants ensured the project remained on time and budget.

Early consideration of BREEAM issues ensured that the school achieved the target for a BREEAM education 2008 outstanding rating of 89%. The school has been designed to enable facilities to be used by the community beyond the school day, credit to the design team and in particular the FFE consultant for establishing the user requirements and developing a design and specification of FFE to accommodate an ever changing audience. The building has a very low energy demand (EPC CO2 index of 8) and incorporates solar hot water and PV technologies to further reduce CO” emissions by 39%. Supply and installation of high quality ICT and FFE that fully supported the design brief and after successful implementation provided: instant results and improvements to use of space; quality of curriculum delivery; and an improved environment that stimulated aspirations and learning behaviours.

And, most importantly, the client is happy with the finished school: “The building has been open since September 2013 and on visits back and meetings with the Head Teacher he has pointed out that without

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Things You Should Know – Working in Collaboration

doubt the design of the school building, ICT, FFE and layout of FFE has allowed the transition in teaching and curriculum change to establish within the environment sooner than expected, the Head is confident this would have been a much harder task had the design process not been so inclusive” Phil Day - Davis Langdon Project Manager.

Project Details: Client: Architect: FFE Consultant: Contractor: FFE Provider: Project Value: Project Size: Contract:

Bridgend County Borough Council Scott Brownrigg Architects Smart FFE Leadbitter Portsdown £34 Million 14,833m2 NEC Option C

Alex Ward is Education Director at Portsdown Group which provides innovative FFE solutions for Educational Environments, incorporating collaborative design co-ordination through to full supply and fit out. For further information please see www.portsdown. and

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Things You Should Know – Secondary

Students designing their own learning space Teacher Juliette Heppell outlines strategies for schools considering this innovative approach.

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Things You Should Know – Secondary


ive years ago I was sitting in a hot theatre with four of my students waiting to hear if we had won £30,000 for our ‘Classroom of the Future’ design. As Feltham City Learning Centre announced the entries my heart sank: I had a group of year 9 students from Lampton Academy, a West London multi ethnic comprehensive with a high percentage of students in difficult circumstances, competing against sixth form pupils from local selective schools. I just sat and hoped that all my students’ hard work and in depth research would be recognised; it was! Their ideas and commitment for their own ‘Classroom of the Future’ could be turned into reality. The excitement when they won was inspiring and the hard work of turning their virtual design into an actual learning space began. Little did I realise how intense the journey would be and how much difference their research and the implementation of their final design would make to all of those involved.   So why has one classroom design project had such an impact? From the very early days, before even winning the money, we spent three years on research including speaking to: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

Experts on furniture design Other schools around the world Education policy makers Technologists Education journalists

During this time our students have shared their learning with many other schools both in the UK and abroad. The result has been that many elements of this project have been reproduced in other parts of the UK, Spain, Australia, Norway and the US.  Each time the project has been replicated in another country, the students have used our student led methodology, but the outcome has been truly local, being adapted to suit the particular schools culture and ethos.  Each learning space design is unique, but the impact on the students, the enthusiasm and the understanding of the way we learn has been repeated. 

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Things You Should Know – Secondary

a student focused, student led design project; students are responsible for the research and all decision making. However this does not happen independently of consultants and everything used is evidenced and tested against the simple parameter - how might this improve learning within the designed space? The project guidelines, learnt in the five years of the project, are;

Equally important, because the schools have swopped ideas and learnt from each other what does, and does not work, the project has become more and more affordable.  What was initially a £30,000 project for one school classroom redesign has resulted in cost effective, affordable learning spaces. There are some simple must do’s the project used as its template. Crucially this project was

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Guidelines for Students ■ Be clear about your priorities - what things are essential and what can you negotiate? These may well change during the project! ■ Make sure the first question you ask about every idea, piece of furniture, bit of technology, wall or flooring is “how will this improve/impact learning in our new space?” ■ Be prepared to change - your first ideas will be good, but after each consultation you will need to tweak or even change things - this is part of a normal project process.  ■ Stick to your guns!  Your important things will always be important! Don’t let the learning priorities change... if you want independent student research, change how it happens, but don’t lose the ability to be able to work independently. 

Things You Should Know – Secondary

■ ■ ■

Remember your budget! Researching bargains on the internet is great, but remember how much everything costs - we looked at chairs in IKEA, chose some, then looked at the cheapest three and chose one from there. Consult everyone! You are leading this, but you need to ALWAYS speak to everyone who will use the room, including the cleaning staff. You are representing your whole school!  Don’t call it a classroom, it’s not. Classrooms are boring tables and chairs. This is your learning space!  Are you proud of your project? You should be! This should be a space where you are proud enough to tell everyone “I designed this!”  Guidelines for Teachers You are there to guide, but not make decisions! Ask the difficult questions, but be supportive.  Some question to consider are;  “Can we afford this?”, “How will this effect sound/light?”, “How does this effect learning?”, “What are potential problems with this?”, “Have you spoken to X about this?” Don’t solve problems, but guide towards solutions.... never provide the answer, just as in a lesson, steer them towards answers but make

the students do the hard thinking! You are there to negotiate between the students and stakeholders - you will need to manage fear of change by others and be the student’s advocate at times. Research teaching techniques... the schools the students are researching have changed their teaching techniques. You will need to

Volume 2:1 Learning Spaces 39

Things You Should Know – Secondary

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Things You Should Know – Secondary

investigate, speak to and research how this might impact on the teachers in your school. Help the students evidence their ideas. There was nothing in our learning space that was new, nothing that was a risk. Every idea had been tried and tested elsewhere in the world... students simply pulled together elements which would fit and work for our school.  All ideas need to be evidenced though.  When this happens the project instantly is less threatening for others less involved!

The students were self-selecting and managed everything; from the research to evidence; from budget to (often very difficult) decisions. Students consulted with experts, students and teachers in other schools, explored schools around the world, and consulted with all stakeholders in the space - from cleaners to caretakers, teachers to parents. Learning is, as they discovered, complicated and to be successful needs to be creative, fun and flexible. Their learning space was designed to reflect these elements. And as for us, their teachers, a little snapshot of what we learnt, is outlined below: Trusting your students is essential.  And they can be trusted.  They will research, plan and have fabulous ideas.... all they will need is a little support and guidance. Technology Technology is the key that allows this learning space to work effectively but technology is not everything! Initially the students were very excited about technology, being prepared to spend all the money on technology.  Then they looked and what makes effective learning and reconsidered.  They also looked at the budget and became practical!   However technology is the key that links the space and alongside the furniture and fittings enables independent learning.  With effective technology as the focus, the existing Interactive whiteboards were taken down to be replaced by two projectors and two screens.  This not only enabled the display of instructions, but also allowed students to easily show work. 

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Things You Should Know – Secondary

Additionally it was then possible to bring the outside world into the learning space by featuring the class twitter stream on screen (@LamptonCitizens if you’d like to follow us!) and/or run freeview news broadcasts, highlighting events like elections or the Olympics. These screens allow multiple points of focus in the learning space, enhancing group work and collaboration.  The learning space had 20 iPads and 20 Fizzbooks (basic touchscreen laptops) for use and six iMacs (known as the Skype bar). This enables students to work at their own pace, using the differentiated work planned by the class teachers and shared by them in advance of the lesson as well as connect to the outside world. Mobile Phones Students are able to use mobile phones in this space - phones are placed on top of homework diaries, on desks, so teachers can see that their use is appropriate and constructive.   Students often take photos using their phones to record learning taking place (taking images of brainstorming taking place on our write-on walls and desks). Pupils may use phones anytime, but must be prepared to justify the learning potential. If students are caught trying to hide or delete anything, it is assumed it is incorrect use and the item will be confiscated. To date we have not needed to confiscate a phone.  Colour Colour was a key theme built into the learning space. Students felt secondary classrooms were often dull and clinical, with a few pieces of work stuck on walls; primary was the last place they felt that learning was really fun! They wanted their space to be colourful and feel playful. 

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Things You Should Know – Secondary

This was achieved by using changing colour LED lights (cheap and effective), shaped and coloured soft furniture, tables/walls etc. However students need to plan colour in spaces to differentiate their use and ensure colour palates are sympathetic to the use of the space. Keeping Students Involved So how do we ensure all students remain involved in the design process? We have found that by making sure there are some elements of the design which need to be refreshed regularly guarantees that students are to teach the next group how to manage a project and ensures the space is always reflective.  Each new group of students are encouraged to question how the space works for them and their colleagues, how they learn in the space and what new research into learning tells us about design. Importantly for project leaders it is vital not to re-invent the wheel. There are schools (and businesses) all over the world taking part in projects on learning design.  Speak to them (many are on Twitter) about how they did things, swap ideas, learn from them. 

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Things You Should Know – Secondary

Juliette Heppell, Teacher at Lampton Academy. Further details regarding this project can be found on the free iBook “Designing a Learning Space” by Juliette Heppell, available on iTunes.

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Using Skype to ‘school visit’ offers opportunities for students to ask pertinent questions and develop communication (and sometimes language) skills. Sometimes imposed changes can have unexpected outcomes; not always unwelcome.  We never intended our learning space to be a shoeless, environment but we compromised by having carpeted flooring and, as our classroom connected to an outside area, shoeless seemed the only solution.  This has turned out to be a really important for our space and has impacted on the way the space is used and, unexpectedly, seen an improvement in student behaviour. Finally we found that school specific furniture is often not as good as cheap, home focussed furniture. Our IKEA tables are actually better than the expensive, school specific ones we chose, the tops are cheap to replace if they get damaged (£20) and ultimately give us a more playful, flexible space.

And so.. Five years later, and at the conclusion of this project, I teach in a fantastic, fun, open learning space, designed completely by students. Teachers were challenged by this space and had to rethink how their pupils learnt, using new techniques and ideas to enhance learning.  And the students? They have gone on to succeed, many with results outstripping expectations.  One student has even come back to school part time as a mentor for children with behaviour problems. I am extremely proud of them all.

Sandwell Early Numeracy Test (SENT-R) Key Stages 2-3 By Chris Arnold, Phil Bowen, Moira Tallents and Bob Walden Sandwell Inclusion Support

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Please send orders to: Imaginative Minds Ltd 309 Scott House, The Custard Factory, Gibb Street, Digbeth, Birmingham B9 4DT Tel: 0121 224 7599 or Fax: 0121 224 7598 Email: &

Showcase – Special Needs

Leading Education architects Haverstock on pushing the boundaries of Special Educational Needs design at their recently completed ‘upside down’ school in the London Borough of Lambeth.

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Showcase – Special Needs

Living life positively


he word ‘Livity’ means ‘Living Life Positively’. It was chosen specifically by the Livity School to encompass its mission statement; ‘promoting achievement through learning for all the students in the school.’ The Livity School is a Special Needs primary school in the London Borough of Lambeth providing Early Years and Key Stage 1 and 2 Education (ages 2 to 11) for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties. The school has been oversubscribed since 2000 but it was not until 2009 that a new site was found for the school in a residential area of Streatham Hill, a short distance from the old school building in Brixton, South London. After working with the school on feasibility studies for a number of years, Haverstock was selected to design the school’s new building. They worked with the local authority, staff, governors, parents and students of the school as well as the local community to realise the project which was constructed by Mulalley & Company Ltd in 2013. Geraldine Lee, the former headteacher of the school said that: “Haverstock are great listeners. They are very experienced and came up with many great ideas. They always made me and other stakeholders in the school feel as though we had a voice and that we were integral to the design process”.

A new school ready for the 21st Century

All photos by Dennis Gilbert

The 1997 Green Paper recognised that special schools were operating in a climate of change. Their students populations were becoming more diverse and complex causing them to deal with a wider spectrum of needs. This was certainly true

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for the Livity School and this shaped their desire to create a new school that was ready for, and could develop into, the 21st Century. As a starting point for the brief, the school was keen to build upon its existing good practice, such as successful co-operative working, shared teaching and non-teaching expertise and flexible pupil placement using a range of shared facilities. The staff and governors also wanted to develop

Diagram showing elevated walkway and its relationship to adjacent spaces.

Exploded axonometric view of the building.

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the school’s well-implemented inclusion practices within the new school. Their aim was for: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

A shared vision and commitment A stable and experienced teaching team Strong support from parents, carers and governors High quality monitoring, evaluation, and assessment of progress High expectations of pupils A calm and consistent school climate Recognition and respect for diversity Effective communication systems

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Spatially, these requirements were translated into a brief that was based upon a number of key strategic moves: ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■

A vibrant heart space with links to the main entrance and other whole school shared spaces Key relationships between spaces to facilitate Key Stage and Early Years interaction Efficient sharing of facilities where appropriate Shared internal / external boundaries to ensure flexibility of external spaces Secure boundaries to safeguard pupils Outreach facilities to provide a base from which

Showcase – Special Needs

■ ■ ■

■ ■

disability professionals could work An integrated diagnostic unit for the statutory assessment of special education needs Direct access from teaching to external spaces, encouraging external learning and play Maximum flexibility of spaces particularly classbases to meet the demands of changing Special Educational Needs of young people from year to year. Spaces designed to assist young people in the development of life skills Minimal transition times throughout the day for all.

The upside down school Fitting all of the required accommodation on the site was a challenge for the team as the new site was only marginally larger than the school’s existing site. It also had to accommodate more young people than the original school site (80 as opposed to 69) and meet more demanding accommodation space standards for SEN schools in line with Building Bulletin 102. These constraints, along with the need to maximise external playspace, led to the decision early on in the design process for the school to operate over three floors. This was unusual for a

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special needs school but offered opportunities to push the boundaries of ‘accepted’ SEN design and to explore innovative building solutions which could offer real life skills in relation to moving between the floors. During the design process Haverstock completed extensive research into the movement of the young people and evacuation procedures around the school to minimise transition times and ensure that no teaching time was lost. The three levels of the school are linked by two ambulant staircases, three lifts and an innovative internal ramped elevated walkway, now named ‘Geraldine’s Walk’ after the school’s former head teacher. This gentle ramp wraps around a double dining hall / heart space allowing the students at Livity to circulate between ground and first floors throughout the day. Its 360 degree views encourage interaction between staff and young people working on different floors and enable them to be fully integrated into all aspects of school life. The flexible central hall / dining space also allows opportunity for a wide range of activities, from dining to physical education classes as well as different teaching pedagogies to suit all children’s needs. Geraldine Lee said: “we wanted the ramp to be heart of the school, to be the main corridor; not just for children in wheelchairs to use but for everybody. They all really enjoy using the walkway; being able to see, look around and meet each other.” A key move in the design process was to locate the younger, Early Years children on the second floor and the move towards the “upside down” school. This was a very successful, albeit an unheard of approach. For the school it was the perfect solution Early Years would be selfcontained with their own dedicated rooftop play space and lift access from the main entrance lobby, offering enhanced security for the youngest children and their parents. This special space at the top of the school really protects families. This is key for parents who are coming to a special school often for the first time and are going through a very difficult period of their lives learning to cope with young children with very profound needs. All Key Stage 1 and 2 teaching accommodation (9 classbases in total) are located at first floor level over a large footprint which cantilevers over the ground floor along three façade providing covered outdoor space. All classbases are of the same design to facilitate any type of Special Educational Need and any age of child - this gives ultimate flexibility for the school from year to year given the ever changing demographics.

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The ground floor is dedicated to whole school, staff and specialist activities such as the hall, dining, kitchen, hydrotherapy pool, library, soft play, physical interaction room and administration spaces. Cleverly this allows it to be securely segregated from the upper floors to facilitate out of hours community use. The proximity of the site to the neighbouring housing blocks influenced the massing of the building. The new Livity School was partially sunk into the ground and the folded profile of the zinc roof at second floor level was designed to ensure that the school did not dominate the adjacent buildings or impact on the rights of light of neighbours. The horizontality of the accommodation arrangement and the banded windows at first floor level was emphasised by the use of dark narrow profile bricks to the ground and second floors. This brick was complimented by timber curtain walling and a ribbon of folded perforated stainless steel cladding panels which reflect the leafy surroundings and spell out ‘LIVITY’ in Braille across the elevation.

Meeting the outside Outdoor space is essential for the school but with the tight site it was a challenge to provide as much as they required.

The cantilevered first floor worked well for the school as they increased the area of covered Key Stage play space on the ground floor as well as providing much needed covered drop-off and visitor car parking. Key to the design of the outside spaces was providing a range of vibrant opportunities flexible for children of all ages these include an interactive sensory trail, a traversing wall, a woodland walk and an amphitheatre space. Direct access from all classbases to an external space was an essential part of the school’s brief, particularly given the needs of young people with ASD. At first floor level a series of innovative ‘15 minute’ terraces were designed, directly accessible from each class base. Used throughout the school day, these small, partially covered external spaces provide a safe, light, bright and airy haven for a multitude of teaching and play purposes as well as for breakout when behavioural issues occur. In the words of key stage 2 teacher Debbie Whymes: “we use the terraces a lot; for a 15-minute break, for timeout, for teaching purposes and for shared activities between classes...there are many, many uses for the terraces, some of which we are only discovering now.” A smaller second floor footprint allowed a dedicated Early Years rooftop play space to be created which features sand and water play,

Glass lift to further increase visual connectivity between floors

Section through Entrance Lobby and dining hall / heart space – both triple height spaces.

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bike and buggy storage, coloured and textured floor finishes and areas of planting and seating. Geraldine Lee said: “My favourite area in the new building is the Early Years play space on the roof – it’s fantastic!”

Low energy, low impact, long life The new school building employs the latest developments in environmental design to ensure that a low energy sustainable solution was achieved. It was awarded a BREEAM rating of Very Good ensuring that a comfortable internal environment is achieved throughout. Building air permeability and fabric U-values were improved beyond the minimum Building Regulation requirements to reduce heating and electricity demands and ensure cheaper bills for the school. The school is served by under-floor heating within thin screeds to improve response times. An Air Source Heat Pump and a Solar Thermal Hot Water System provide a carbon reduction of 10% over the base model Building Regulations Part L requirement. The majority of the building is naturally crossventilated using passive techniques. Each room features a dedicated wall mounted sensor and controller for temperature and carbon dioxide monitoring allowing interaction for students and staff. Much of the accommodation benefits from exposed concrete soffits which act as thermal mass, evening out temperature fluctuations across the day and night. High level automatic opening windows effectively assist night purging so the building feels cool in summer. Natural daylighting is consistent and utilised throughout the scheme to create light, bright pleasant spaces in which to teach and work, with excellent levels of daylighting throughout the school. An underground attenuation tank incorporating rain water harvesting from the roof was designed into the scheme at an early stage. This provides sufficient water to meet the school’s WC flushing demand, not bad when you consider how many toilets are in a Special School!

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Design for everyone The school prides itself on being fully inclusive and the new building was designed with this in mind from the formation of the brief, through design development and into construction. Each classbase enjoys an interactive sensory corner to enable sensory learning throughout the day and a dedicated Mobility Store space off the circulation. Ceiling-mounted hoists were provided in every teaching space to assist the lifting of young people in and out of mobility equipment for a wide range of activities. In designing a school to accommodate children of all primary ages in different types of mobility equipment, windows were banded at different so everyone had a views to the landscape beyond. In response to the brief, numerous accessible WCs and wet and dry change areas were provided throughout the school within easy reach of the teaching spaces to ensure that all spaces could be used by all young people to facilitate timetabling and provide ultimate flexibility. The nature of the school dictates that the entire development is compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). However the design goes a long way in excess of DDA compliance due to the special needs of the occupants. For example, 2.2m wide horizontal circulation was provided to allow for two wheelchairs to pass and large door widths were specified to ensure that all pieces of mobility equipment could fit through with ease.

The community school The school’s relationship with their local community has always been of paramount importance and thus the new school was designed to nurture and build upon these relationships. For the school there are three levels of community: 1. The school community itself. To help inform the design of the new school, regular consultation tailored to specific groups and

subject matters was carried out with teachers, administration staff, governors, members of the local authority, classroom assistants, parents, catering assistants, therapists and the premises manager. 2. The wider professional community. The school was designed to be used as a base for wider services provided by the local authority, visiting professionals and the facilities management team. In addition to the provision of an outreach unit, diagnostics unit and visiting professionals accommodation, parking and external power points were provided for peripatetic health staff to enable dentist, doctor and optician services to be accessible to all the children and their families. 3. The wider Streatham Hill and local area community. In addition to consultation meetings and drop-in sessions throughout the design process, a residents committee was also set up which assisted the team in open communication. Through this consultation, Haverstock developed a strategy for the provision of accommodation within the school that would be securely accessible to the local community out of school hours. This included the hydroptherapy pool, soft play room, ICT suite, physical interaction room, large hall / dining room with kitchen and the library area. The school moved into their new building in April 2013 and it was officially opened by the Duchess of Wessex in January 2014. In March 2014, the school received a Civic Trust Award in recognition of its high architectural design quality and its positive contribution to the students and the local community. The school love their new building and they are thoroughly proud and delighted to be in it at long last. In the words of the school’s chair of governors Pamela Secrett: “we have got something here which we will all be proud of for years to come”.

Haverstock is a medium-sized, design-led architectural practice, working side-by-side with clients to create inspiring, life-changing buildings. We focus on specialist public-sector projects, using a combination of creativity and rigorous thinking to tackle varied and complex briefs. Open and collaborative, we have over 30 years’ experience in the business, and are as enthusiastic and committed as the day we started. For more information see or follow us on twitter @haverstock_llp

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Learning Without Limits 1 using art to develop critical and creative thinking By Tony Hurlin Price: £65.00 plus VAT Includes whole school licence so you can put it on your virtual learning environment

How to challenge and involve pupils of all abilities by teaching the key skills of critical and creative thinking through paintings, pictures and prints.

The materials in this pack will help all teachers to: • Recognise the value of building a repertoire of techniques, to teach thinking through looking at examples of important art • Learn and understand the core principles of critical and creative thinking and how to apply these in all lessons • Explore 6 techniques in detail and learn how to apply these to lessons they have already planned • Refine and adapt the techniques to meet the needs of specific groups of pupils including able learners • Develop confidence in talking and learning at deeper levels of meaning with all pupils

This pack uses thinking and interpretion skills as part of critical skills development at KS2 and as a practical application for the principals of the Intelligent Learning Learning Without Limits 1 Programme. It can be integrated with the Intelligent has been created through Learning Programme or used on its own. looking at the practical experiences of teachers It includes a teacher’s handbook, CD-ROM with seeking to foster critical and powerpoint presentation and seven A4 laminated creative thinking abilities in all their pupils. reproductions of paintings discussed in the handbook.

order hotline: 0121 224 7599 or visit Recognised as the most cutting edge curriculum magazine in the country, Creative Teaching and Learning focuses on ways teachers can develop their students’ creative and critical thinking skills across the whole curriculum.

In our upcoming issue: Information literacy – A toolkit for research What if the skills of information literacy could be transferred to any independent research task or enquiry across the curriculum? Andrew Shenton explains why they can. Debunking the myths of PBL Many people have certain preconceptions about project-based learning which means this innovative teaching strategy is often misapplied. Bob Lenz provides counterarguments to the most pervasive.

Creative Teaching & Learning

Get your game on Matt Farber shares some inventive ways to incorporate game-based learning into the classroom and get students as excited about learning as they are about video games. Counting for creativity Jeffrey Pflaum details an innovative way to expand young people’s creativity and emotional intelligence… simply by counting back from 50.

“We’re going on a print hunt!” How can we encourage very young children to take an interest in literacy? By incorporating it into their imaginative play, of course! Sue Lyle explains.

To subscribe to Creative Teaching & Learning: Call the Subscriptions Orderline 0121 224 7578 or email Subscribe online at:

Think Piece – Post Occupancy Evaluation

Why PostOccupancy Evaluation matters for schools Dr Jenny Thomas from Performance Consultancy Ltd looks at why evaluating recently built schools can tell us a great deal about how we should be spending limited resources in the future.

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ost-occupancy evaluation, or POE, continues to be discussed in relation to school environments, particularly new schools. But what is it? And why is it important? Put simply POE is about understanding how a completed building is performing. By performing we firstly mean physically, such as how much energy the building is consuming and the way in which the building fabric is withstanding wear and tear. However, this does not reveal the whole picture. For this an additional perspective is required, that of the pupils, teachers, support staff and the wider school community. It would be nonsensical to declare a school environment a success if it did not facilitate the learning taking place there, even if the energy consumption levels were exemplary. So now we know what POE is, we need to address the second question – is it important? Once a building is complete, is there any point in assessing what has been built to see if it is working well? Surely it’s too late? In fact quite the opposite. Those who have undertaken a successful POE understand the benefits of evaluating a completed building.

Think Piece – Post Occupancy Evaluation

There are three key levels of benefit to completing a POE: ■

The first is future learning which is highlighted by this cartoon, commissioned by sustainability guru, and building scientist, Bill Bordass OBE, who asserts that we are essentially “flying blind” without systematic POE. If evaluations are not

conducted there is no collective learning that can be taken forward to inform future projects. So the same mistakes could be made over and over, or a piece of design genius completely overlooked and never repeated. Future learning is important for designers and suppliers as well as the education system as a whole. Any school contemplating new facilities should be able to ask a design team “has this been tried before and did it work?” and receive a well-informed response. The second key benefit of POE is to help schools or school groups appropriately allocate any future capital spending. An evaluation can reveal what works well in their existing environment and where the key issues are that they might want to address. For example investment in a new classroom would not be a sensible use of funds if what would really benefit pupils and teachers is a new library. This is clearly an oversimplification but truly effective spending relies upon a sensible evaluation of need having taken place. The third benefit of POE relates specifically to a school in use. A new building is not a fait accompli, the way in which it is used and managed play a significant role in how effective it is. By conducting an evaluation of how people

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use a school facility once completed, and after people have had time to settle in, a great deal can be learnt. For example if energy use is identified as being higher than expected in certain areas, the reason for this can be identified and, in many cases, rectified. In one example, given to me by a colleague, a school’s base rate energy consumption (the level of energy consumption when no-one was actively using the school such as holidays and weekends) was surprisingly high. Following further investigation it was discovered that all the refrigerators had been left on over the school holidays, despite there being no food in there to

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keep cool. Changing behaviour in that school, i.e. turning off the refrigerators when not required, increased the effectiveness of the building and saved the school some money too. So, in summary, POE is about evaluating a school environment from the perspective of those who use it and in terms of how well the building and facilities are working. The benefits of POE are future learning, informed decision making about capital spend and more effective use of a school environment. Sounds sensible. So why is it that relatively few POEs are conducted in schools? There are a number of reasons that I’ve identified in the course of my work. The first, and most obvious reason is funding. Who is going to pay

Think Piece – Post Occupancy Evaluation

for a POE to be undertaken at a time when school capital budgets are so restricted? Conducting a POE is not free, but the potential to highlight and improve efficiency, even in a completed school environment, shows that POE has the ability to more than pay for itself. Additionally for those aiming to build or refurbish more than one school there is a clear benefit from being able to demonstrate that the environments designed previously offer true value for money and allow for continuous improvement. How can you improve upon something if you don’t know how well it worked? Fundamentally, on new projects, POE provides answers to the question “Where has this worked before?”. All of this demonstrates the value of investing in POE. A second barrier to be overcome is fear, a fear of not knowing what might be uncovered and the implications of this. But, surely taking ownership of an evaluation is better than waiting for someone else to come along and evaluate your work or your school environment! From a slightly more positive perspective, POE in my experience tends to yield

fewer negative responses than people expect. The average Facilities Manager spends time dealing with complaints from building users, people rarely feel the need or take the time to report that the temperature in their classroom is great. A POE gives facilities managers a much more balanced view and helps them identify where there are real issues within the building rather than an individual person’s preferences or isolated incidents. The last major barrier I have encountered, and it’s the big one, is responsibility. Who should take responsibility to ensure that an evaluation is conducted? Those who design and build schools are unlikely to be around a year after a building project has been completed, the time at which a POE is recommended, and schools are understandably reluctant to pay for something that they might reasonably expect to be part of the building project. Funding bodies such as the EFA (Education Funding Authority) might be expected to lead on POE but their main focus is on delivering projects and they feel POE is, at least partly, the responsibility of the industry to undertake and report.

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Whilst the POE buck has been passed around for a number of years, something does seem to be changing. People are recognising that they need to take responsibility within their own industries to undertake POE. There have been some pioneers who have asked “what is the impact of the project we delivered on the outcomes for that school?” or “I want to know how well my school environment is performing and improve on how we operate within it”. But they are a minority rather than the majority. However, POE is finally becoming something that is expected rather than being an exception to the rule. The new RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Plan of Work ( includes Stage 7 “In Use” which calls for POE to be undertaken and the feedback loop closed, i.e. that POE findings are fed into Stage 1 of future projects. Similarly Government Soft Landings ( which is applicable to all suitable public projects includes monitoring and evaluation which contractors are expected to incorporate into their projects. The EFA also report that they are in the process of developing their approach to building performance evaluation in the new world of the Priority School Building Programme and will be releasing more information on this in April 2014. What we need now is for some ownership of POE to be taken centrally either by Government or a national body who can collate the evidence being collected and generate that all important systemwide learning. That way the next time you ask, or are asked, “where has this worked before?” there is a real, evidenced based response available.

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Performance Consultancy was set-up by Dr Jenny Thomas, an expert in evidencebased design in the UK with nearly 10 years experience. She has worked with a range of organisations including private sector clients, schools, healthcare trusts, and government both local and national. For more information see http://

Start them thinking!




Marcelo Staricoff and Alan Rees Suitable for KS1-2 £22.99 Make an immediate difference to teaching and learning in your school. Start Thinking will bring enjoyment, creativity and challenge to your classroom and improve the thinking skills of your pupils. Inspiring education often grows from simple routines. When teachers at Westbury Park School in Bristol wanted to challenge their pupils to think, enquire and reach beyond standard expectations, they introduced daily thinking-skills starters. These mini-challenges had built-in requirements for pupils to exercise their minds through essential thinking processes such as questioning, comparing, prioritizing, recognising patterns and thinking methodically. The teachers were amazed at how much children enjoyed the starters and benefited from them. Some children turned starters into projects lasting months – all completed in their own time. Children seemed to grow in confidence, persistence and enthusiasm for learning.

Start Thinking Daily starters to inspire thinking in primary classrooms

Start Thinking collects more than 90 thinking-skills starters, tried and tested by teachers at Westbury Park School. The starters are arranged into chapters on Words, Numbers, Science, Creativity and Philosophy so you can easily choose the most appropriate challenges for your pupils. Detailed guidance notes are provided.

What questions can you think of that do not have an answer, or that have more than one answer? If you could grant the world five wishes, what would they be? What are the similarities and differences between blood and ketchup?

Order Hotline: 0121 224 7599 or visit


Things You Should Know – Higher Education

Social Learning? Rachel Shaw reflects on designing social learning spaces for Higher Education.

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Things You Should Know – Higher Education


aving completed a number of projects that provide for “social learning” and recently developed the brief for a new student centre for a UK University, we reflect in this article on different interpretations of “social learning space” and the way in which it fits into the wider Higher Education estate. If pedagogy embodies teacher-focused education, and andragogy learner-focused, more self directed education, then the types of spaces covered by the term “social learning” support an andragogical educational model, providing for self lead learning activities. The fact that these are self lead, learner centred activities, and therefore completely individual, points to a requirement for a variety of space types to cater for the diverse range of personal learning styles and preferences. Whilst a literal interpretation of social learning implies group working there will always be a need for areas more focused towards solitary work but there is an opportunity to provide this in a secure,

supportive space, where people can work “alone together” – an altogether different type of social learning. This starts to point towards a requirement not for a single social learning space, but a learning landscape with varied terrain that provides choice for individuals. Our first social learning project started life as a response to one of the Strategic Aims within the 5 year Corporate Plan for the Royal Veterinary College, University of London (RVC): “Optimising the quality of the student experience educationally and socially by providing variety and depth of learning environments and social amenities” The College had identified that the only accommodation available for students in nonteaching time was the canteen or the library. The Estates team commissioned ArchitecturePLB to investigate the provision of additional space within an under used courtyard on the College’s

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Camden campus. The project was called the “Social Learning Café”. The brief was for a coffee shop style café (nicknamed “Starbrains”) that would provide a space in between the silence of the library and hubbub of the canteen and be available outside of their restricted opening hours.

Considering a spectrum of spaces

As the brief and design developed we proposed that rather than one type of ‘in between’ space, there might be a need for a spectrum of space types. This was explored further with the client team using precedents that were deliberately not all education related, chosen to stimulate discussion about the spatial characteristics suited to the new space. The project moved away from just the provision of a coffee shop to the creation of a large linking space with varied subspaces ranging from noisy, café below to the quiet, day lit reading pod above. In the completed project a number of vertical zones both link and provide graduated spatial characteristics that mediate between the noisy lower ground floor canteen and silent study spaces of the first floor library. A variety of furnishings; groups of low seating, café style tables and chairs, beanbags along with the large seating steps formed by changes of floor level, add to the flexible gradations of space type. Displays of artefacts from the College’s world class anatomy collection have been designed into the space, making it a learning resource in itself. New linking doorways facilitate students bringing specimens from the adjacent Anatomy Museum into the café area to study with peers over a coffee!

Café at RVC Camden Campus Copyright: Tim Soar

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The space brings multiple benefits to the campus and feedback has been extremely positive. Described as giving the campus a social heart, the project perhaps contributed to RVC being recognised as achieving Most Improved Student Experience in the Times Higher Education Awards soon after construction was completed. Rather than deliver a single social learning space, the RVC project delivers a variety of interlinked varied spaces; a learning landscape with a variety of terrain and habitat. The multi faceted, informal nature of the space allows it to flow and flex to suit the needs of the users. Each student can choose to inhabit the part of the landscape that suits their needs at any particular point in time. The informal fluid spaces encourage chance social interactions between students and academics. In some areas social learning might take place with a student choosing to collaborate with peers and benefit from teamwork. At other times the same student may choose to work alone in one of quieter parts of the space. This “anti social” space is as important as the social; only if the two ends of the spectrum - and a graduation of spaces in between - are available is there really choice for the learner in how they wish to study. If social learning is only one aspect amongst many informal learning styles perhaps the social learning tag should be avoided. We don t, after all, label individual study carrels as “anti social learning“ space. This chimes with feedback from some of the academics we have worked with who consider the description “social learning” to be an unnecessary term with unhelpful connotations of the playground, belying the fact that hard work is necessary to gain a university qualification Moving forward, abandoning the social learning label supports a much more comprehensive consideration of the diversity of styles of informal learning. A visit to the University of Utrecht “Studielandschap” reinforced our evolving view that there is a requirement for a more complete informal learning “landscape” that provides a gradation of different environments. Different parts of the landscape need different provisions (food and drink, printing, ICT provision, power and data) and characteristics (different degrees of enclosure, sound attenuation, lighting, views, furnishings). For the more social areas to contribute to the whole they need to be balanced by “unsociable learning” space and every variety in between. This landscape can take two forms – a dispersed series of spaces across the campus or a centralised facility that provides the whole landscape. For many institutions the reality will be a mix of the

two with existing facilities such as the library and canteen forming part of the mix. In a dispersed form it could be argued that it is easier to provide a varied landscape as it is likely to be provided within existing buildings on campus that are inherently varied in character. A dispersed model also has the potential to offer better geographical immediacy - if you have an hour between lectures are you going to make the journey to a centralised facility on another part of campus? Some Universities have developed dispersed informal learning facilities as hubs that form the focus for a specific faculty, fostering interaction between academics, researchers and students within a particular discipline and offering the opportunity to build faculty specific resources or display into the space. This might include collections such as the anatomy collection at RVC or displays to build interest in the research work of the faculty, perhaps inspiring the researchers of the future. These opportunities could equally be seen as disadvantages, reinforcing faculty silos and limiting opportunities for richer cross-disciplinary interactions. Feedback from recent student consultation by ArchitecturePLB indicated that the idea of non faculty owned learning space was popular, perhaps in part because of the opportunity for a broader sphere of interaction with peers beyond faculty boundaries. A centralised facility has further potential advantages including pragmatic issues such as ease of management and security control (perhaps more easily facilitating 24hr access) and easier access to IT support and other assistance such as student mentors. In terms of the choice in types of space offered, where dispersed facilities by their very nature offer different characters of space, there is a danger that an efficient centralised facility falls into the trap of a bland, unattractive offer of multiple hot-desks and bookable group rooms. With this in mind, in our recent development of the brief for a new 5500m2 student centre, we concluded that it is important to focus on the provision of variety, to develop a range of ‘habitats’ that offer students real choice. Different habitats can be created through variation in a fairly limited number of aspects, combined in different ways. These aspects could include façade treatment (modifying views out, day lighting), furnishing, artificial lighting, enclosure / noise control, provision of catering, provision of ICT. The way in which the different variables are combined can allow for changes to be made as demand changes. Designing the building and

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interiors in a way that allows adjustment by users (moving furniture around, switching between lighting patterns, moving a shutter to change views out or daylight allowed in) can facilitate change on a regular basis perhaps to suit different times of the year (consider exam revision time in contrast to fresher’s week). Creating different habitats

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Things You Should Know – Higher Education

As well as allowing students to make choices and take ownership, this is one way of achieving future flexibility to suit changes in learning activities and technologies. Others aspects such as catering, ICT provision, or the balance of enclosed to open plan space can be adaptable on a longer term basis. An alternative approach is to provide flexibility through diversity; greater variety between spaces with less opportunity for users to make changes. The answer is probably a mix of the two but in both cases, in order give the building longevity, care needs to be taken that spaces are not rigidly designed to suit a specific activity at day one. Such a rigid model would prevent restrict the benefits from rapid changes in technology and learning styles. We have also looked at extending the benefits of informal learning styles into what might be un-expected areas. For example, the adaptation of “chalk and talk” lecture theatre settings to allow them to support group learning activities as well as didactic teaching. Working with both City University and London South Bank University we have developed a models to upgrade existing lecture theatres. This has been achieved both through the division of the space into different areas – again the provision of a varied landscape but this time within one teaching space – as well as through the use of flexible furniture allowing students to easily and quickly move or turn around and join groups for discussion. A lecture theatre remodeled along these lines not only supports different teaching styles but also has the potential for increased utilization by attracting use as study space, extending the informal learning landscape when not in use as teaching space.

Whilst the projects above extend informal learning into the lecture theatre, there is also potential for lecturers to be attracted to move out into and use the informal learning landscape that will then cease to be the demise of students alone. A rich landscape of high quality enjoyable spaces will be attractive to all and could help to evolve new styles of contact time, facilitating increased personalisation for learners. Our conclusion is, that if the spaces and services are attractive, enjoyable and well designed there is an opportunity to gain far greater benefits than just the creation of a place for students to “hang out” between lectures. Whether a centralised or dispersed model is developed, a variety of habitats can be created that allow each student to navigate the landscape and choose to inhabit the terrain that will best support them for the task in hand. This might be working with colleagues or alone, “social” or “anti social”. To avoid conflict it is important that the ‘rules ‘are clear about appropriate working styles in each area - through careful consideration of the design some areas will discourage noise and discussion, other areas will encourage and promote interactions. If students are attracted to use this type of space this could help to overcome issues of social isolation that arise when the study bedroom is the only workplace available. Even when a student wishes to work alone the “alone together” work place is an enriched social landscape with much greater likelihood of social interactions. The rich variety of space will be a valuable and attractive asset for a University, offering choice and the opportunity for each individual (staff and students) to navigate the landscape to achieve the best outcome.

Rachel Shaw is a Director at ArchitecturePLB where over the last ten years she has led a wide range of mainly educational projects from nursery to Higher Education. For further information see: www. architectureplb. com or contact: rachelshaw@ architectureplb, 020 7940 1888.

Lecture spaces

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Things You Should Know – Digital Environments

Digital Spaces and a New Ecology of Learning David Jakes discusses the ever increasing range of digital options to enhance students’ learning.

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n October 8, 1871, the City of Chicago caught fire and burned for three days. Over 3 square miles of the city was destroyed, several hundred people lost their lives, and over 100,000 were left homeless.1  But Chicagoans seized the opportunity to rebuild, and 142 years later, a vibrant world-class city stands along the banks of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. 1871 is a 50,000 square co-working space in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart intentionally named to reflect and embody the innovative spirit and drive that was responsible for recreating Chicago.  1871 represents a new way to innovate, to connect, and learn together, all within a range of spaces that can be used in flexible and unique ways to promote the creative inoculations so necessary for innovation and entrepreneurship.  Beyond the physical spaces, omnipresent technology provides access to a digital layer of conversation, resources, and expertise that supports and extends the interaction that occurs face to face.   1. “Great Chicago Fire - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.” 2003. 1 Dec. 2013

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Several miles from 1871 is YouMedia, a 5500 square foot teen learning space that opened in 2009 and is housed in the Harold Washington Library. The overall intent of the space is to increase the number “of youth in Chicago who use online resources and new media as tools to engage in inquiry about their neighborhoods, the city, and the world.”2  YouMedia helps students explore and create with digital tools on a variety of levels, with the support of adult mentors, and within an engaging and creative physical space. Like 1871, YouMedia is technology-rich.  It is also supported by a comprehensive digital presence that serves as a portal for the activities of the space, but more importantly, as a location for the distribution and portrayal of student created digital media.  As expected, the site interacts with a variety of social media tools, including Vimeo, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.  YouMedia also takes advantages of the natural connections between youth and Facebook to promote the activities of YouMedia as well as the student creations done there.   2. “YOUmedia Chicago :: Philosophy.” 2010. 1 Dec. 2013

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In both cases, the pervasive nature and use of technology in these spaces presents compelling questions for learning and how technology, and specifically the digital environments it affords, provide an additional context and capacity for a new type of learning ecology for schools.

The emergence of a new ecology for learning In most schools, the primary location of learning is still the physical “brick and mortar” classroom. In that construct, learners report to a specific location for learning and wait for a learning opportunity to be provided for them.  It also means that learners

generally learn with the same individuals, around some subject and curriculum, and at a particular time, and most likely, with limited resources. Today, that type of learning experience is being challenged by the emergence of a new type of learning ecology that is based in connection and choice, and that uses multiple contexts for learning, including physical and digital spaces and virtual experiences. In this type of model, all spaces support learning, and learners negotiate between them as necessary using a variety of devices.  Learning in one space has the opportunity to be expanded in the other, and as a result, learning is more connective and robust.  

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The tools of this new ecology range from smartphones, to the iPad and other tablets, to tools like Chromebooks and laptops, and are either issued by the school or owned outright by students. And while the question of what device is chosen is a question for each school or individual, all devices can connect students to the raw material required for learning, and learners to each other, independent of time, space, or place. Because of this capacity, the school serves as a node in a network of spaces inhabited by the learner, instead of the single, lone location for learning.  Informal locations, or “third places,” are self-selected by the learner and contribute to anytime and anyplace learning.  These spaces are found wherever there is comfortable seating and access to the Internet and support learners in their efforts to explore learning opportunities on their own, as well as address their responsibilities as students in school.   Learning is unbounded, and occurs in traditional school-based settings, online in digital spaces supported by the school, and in other physical and digital locations of the learners choosing.  Expertise and resources can flow in, and the products of learning that students create can flow out, creating a school and learning ecosystem that is permeable and contributory. That type of access can challenge old assumptions of how students access content, what instruction means, how students negotiate the pathway for learning, how students are assessed, and where learning occurs.  When that is possible, it becomes possible to create entirely new conditions for learning that are represented by a new type of student learning experience.

A Challenge to Schools If technology can engender new learning opportunities, and learners have digital access to global resources and capacities, what does that mean for the design of a student learning experience that can occur in an assemblage of different spaces?  Of course, consideration of space is only one part of a new learning dynamic - schools must consider a wide range of elements that contribute to how and what students learn. Student learning experiences, designed by educational professionals, are a complex mixture of many elements and should ultimately promote the development of learning dispositions.  These experiences should include a consideration of the following in their design: ■

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Content: what content must students master and know? (can students explain the biological basis of cancer?) Skills:  what skills are students capable of demonstrating, what can they do? (can students collaborate?)

Things You Should Know – Digital Environments

How can schools begin?

Mindsets: what are the thinking behaviours students exhibit? How do they think, and think within the context of skill behavior? (can students think interdependently when collaborating?) People: are who students learn with (by themselves, with their classmates, with the world?) Resources:  what is required to support learning?  (paper and pencil, books, online resources, and technology?).

Of course, the design of student learning experiences has spatial implications. All of this has to occur somewhere, and that means choosing when and where within the formal spaces of school, but also recognizing the choice learners have in self-organizing in their own spaces.  That means recognizing a sixth bullet point: the environment.  So, how do schools create the conditions for a student experience that employs a multidimensional (physical and digital) space for learning?

Schools can begin the process of recreating learning space by engaging in a design process. That process begins with understanding everything about the school, its mission and vision, it’s climate and culture, its people, and the human interactions that take place there. It’s also about understanding all of that with deep empathy.  Understanding how the school engages its students in learning is essential, as is the school’s role as a member of the community it serves. A compelling outcome of this initial action would be to develop a declaration of what the school believes the student learning experience should be.  This could be in the form of an initial or first attempt at a learning manifesto.  Essentially, such a manifesto would illuminate a set of design drivers associated with school, students, and learning and be a living document always under revision and always evolving. After the ethnographic research, there is an ideation process that occurs using drivers illuminated by the initial discovery phase and declared in the manifesto.  A prototype learning space ecology could then be designed and tested with a particular group or even the entire school.  An evaluation of the prototype would then be conducted, and the prototype adjusted and refined.  This iterative process would be continued until a more desired condition is reached.  With technology, and its continual evolution and increased complexity, it would be appropriate for this process to always be ongoing in order to adjust as the capabilities of technology change and what the student experience should be.

A Plausible Future for Learning So, what does it look like? Consider these two scenarios - the first a traditional school experience, and the second, representative of learning in a multidimensional learning space. In one scenario, imagine four students in science class.  The students are given a lab procedure from the teacher and begin by writing the goals, questions, procedure and material lists from the teacher handout into a lab notebook.  Each student draws a data table in their notebook where they record the events of the experiment as it unfolds.  Class ends and students proceed to their next class. The students meet later that night in their town’s public library to discuss their experiment and its implications and to complete the lab activity together as a team.  The next day, each student turn in their individual lab notebooks to the teacher.

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In a plausible future, imagine a teacher posing a question for investigation to a group of students. The teacher also provides them with a list of resources and supplies they can use to conduct an investigation of the question.  The team of students creates a shared Google document that includes all group members and the teacher.  The students begin developing a process to investigate the question using the resources available to them.  Later that night, the teacher accesses the Google document and makes comments into the document and engages two students working on that document from a cafe near the school in a document chat.  Later, the other students join in from home and all work to resolve the comments made by the teacher to refine their process.  The next day the teacher confirms that the students may proceed with their process during the scheduled lab time two days away by an email to all students. During the lab, students use probeware connected to one of their Chromebooks to obtain data, which is imported into a Google spreadsheet in the school’s Google Apps for Education system.  While the experiment is progressing, one student is dictating notes into a shared Google document directly from their smartphone.  One student uses their personal iPad to record video of the experiment, while another uses an iPhone to capture imagery.  All media is

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uploaded to a shared folder in Google Drive that all have access to. Later that evening, the students debrief in a Google Hangout where responsibilities are discussed and assigned.  Two students then build a digital story surrounding their investigation using WeVideo while the other two assemble text, data, and imagery into a Google Site that represents the groups digital lab report.  The digital story is completed, added to the site, and the students “turn in” their analysis through the submission of a Web link to the teacher via a Google Form the teacher had created. Students can learn in both scenarios, but the second scenario provides a more contemporary experience where students employ technology in a way that connects them and values collaboration, choice and creativity.  In that scenario, the physical location of learning and the digital spaces associated with it are integrated together to provide a holistic learning environment accessed through school-issued and personal device technology.   So what is available to produce a new digital space, in association with a school’s current physical spaces?  It is important to realize that schools will all be at different places relative their incorporation of digital spaces and virtual experiences.  There are a wide variety of tools that can support the development of digital learning spaces, and all could be appropriate given the needs and desires of each school.

The Tools Schools typically begin their initial steps into a digital learning space by employing a learning management system (LMS). These are turn-key solutions that offer a wide range of services for teachers and students such as hosting course documents, providing discussion forums and online access to course calendars, gradebooks, assignments, and announcements.  Many of these systems now offer more sophisticated capacity by integrating other Web-based tools such as Google Apps and various social media platforms.  Examples of learning management systems include Blackboard, Moodle, Haiku, Canvas, Schoology, and Edmodo, among others. Another significant platform that brings a wide range of capacities to digital learning is the Google Apps for Education system.  Google Apps offers tools such as Docs, Spreadsheets, Forms and Presentations, as well as Blogger, Google Hangouts and Google+.  Google Apps enables each student to have their own Google account where they have agency to use the tools as they need to support their learning.  Google Apps enables students to create a personal suite of tools for their use based on selfselection, as opposed to a personalized collection

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created by the school for the student. Of course, this condition assumes that the school has made available all tools within Google Apps and that students can indeed select the tools they wish to use.  If not, students have the option of creating their own Google account outside of the schools domain. The Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania uses Google Apps and Canvas to create the school’s digital space.  Principal Chris Lehmann believes schools are becoming more capable of building digital spaces as a manifestation of what they believe the student

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learning experience should be. Lehmann adds that digital spaces enable your school to be no longer defined by four walls and a floor, and that digital spaces literally have the potential to transform how you believe learning should happen for students in all spaces. Glenbrook School District 225 in Glenview and Northbrook, Illinois uses Google Apps for Education as their digital space for learning, forsaking the inclusion of a LMS.  Ryan Bretag, Director of Instructional Technology for the district, calls Google Apps a “learning contribution ecosystem,” where learners are expected to contribute to the learning

Things You Should Know – Digital Environments

of all but not necessarily be overtly managed by the school. Bretag suggests that Google is a gateway, where learners are able to use their Google login credentials across a range of other Web-based tools to build their own learning platform that is responsive to their needs as contributors to a larger ecosystem of learning.  Bretag adds that the agility of learning spaces should be determined not by the organization but by its membership. Beyond learning management systems and platforms like Google Apps, schools must consider the role that social media plays in providing connections between learners.  Social media is the domain of students, and many have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogging accounts.  As the name suggests, this media does connect individuals in an online, informal context.  Can schools leverage these tools and that capacity to support learning?  How can schools intentionally create the conditions where the use of social media

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their digital space tools on a wide array of devices to ensure portability and functionality. There is a wide range of options available for creating digital spaces for learning. Most likely into the near future, digital spaces for schools will be a mix of school-supported tools and tools that students select.  


by students adds to learning rather than distracts from it? And, can a school be comfortable with the ability of students to self-organize in these spaces on their own, and for learning?    Beyond social media, students and teachers have the option of selecting a variety of tools, ranging from productivity tools to digital creation tools, that can support their learning in addition to what a school might offer.  Tools such as Diigo and Evernote provide capacity for students to manage the information required for learning.  Other cloud-based software tools, such as WeVideo, Geogebra, Desmos Graphing Calculator, and Pixlr provide students with browserbased software that enables creative capacity anytime and anyplace, using a range of devices. In addition to all of these tools, there are new tools that now can support the creation of a virtual, or augmented reality, experience for learners.  Tools like Aurasma, the Oculus Rift system, Google Glass, and the Structure Sensor attachment for iPads enable educators and students the opportunity to begin exploring how augmented reality experiences can be used to create another digital layer on top of an existing physical learning experience. A significant factor in the selection of tools that create digital spaces for learning is the ability of mobile devices to access and display the spaces appropriately.  Students must be able to access digital learning spaces anywhere on any type of device - mobility and access are a critical feature.  Schools should be diligent in testing

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Creating and connecting into digital spaces recognizes the ondemand nature of learning today, and that expertise, resources and learning opportunities can be accessed beyond the capacities of current educational spaces. Spaces such as YouMedia and 1871 provide a plausible future for learning, working, and innovating and one that requires new dispositions for acting as a learner in a wide range of spaces.   The emergence of ubiquitous technology requires that schools consider the role that digital spaces have in supporting learning in physical spaces.  The first step in that consideration requires designing a more complex iteration of learning space that includes both physical and digital elements that interact and support each other. Schools have always had an opportunity to create a invitation to a new expedition for learning.  And to some extent, most schools have always tried to improve their craft.  But designing and creating a new type of student learning experience that requires students to negotiate and employ a more expansive collection of learning spaces represents a significant step towards making learning relevant, engaging, and empowering.

David Jakes Digital Designer and Strategist The Third Teacher+ and CannonDesign

THINK LIKE A LEARNER! A new practical guidebook to help children acquire the language, skills and self-awareness of successful learners

Help your children make the transition to secondary school with Think Like a Learner Carol Dweck has shown how important children’s self-concept as learners is to their performance, no matter what their ability and Bob Burden’s Myself As a Learner Scale (MALS) suggests how children’s self-concept as learners can grow when taking responsibility for assessing their own work. A child’s ability to reflect on their own thinking is now recognised as critical to them becoming resilient and successful learners.

This book asks children to involve themselves in key questions about learning and develops their self-awareness as self-critical thinkers and learners. It asks: • • • •

How do we think and talk about learning? What is ‘bouncebackability’ and how do you get it? How can we make sure our team learning is high quality? How does making choices help us to become more responsible for our own learning?

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Learning is an exciting journey The more we understand about it the more exciting it gets The better we get at thinking the more we enjoy taking on a challenge The harder we try the prouder we feel

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About the Authors: Tom Robson Tom has a passion for teaching and an ambition to help all children and adults see learning as something that can enhance their lives and bring great pleasure. He has taught in all phases (FS 2 to postgraduate institutions) worked all over the world giving advice to schools as far as China, Malaysia, Thailand and the United States. His experience ranges from being an NPQH trainer, OFSTED inspector, helping set up new schools, Headteacher mentor and appraiser, Senior Local Authority adviser. Tom’s great interest is in the science of learning and the impact neurotransmitters have on our capacity to learn. He works in schools all over the UK helping them understand the science of learning and its impact on teaching and learning quality.

Di Pardoe Diana is passionate about learning and believes that every child should be enabled to experience personal learning success. Following her role as Deputy Head teacher in a large primary school in Bristol, she worked for several years for Bristol LA leading many courses and projects focused on the development of effective Assessment for Learning. She then spent five years as a learning coach with Excellence in Cities Action Zone in South Bristol where she did the initial research which led to the publication of her book ‘Towards Successful Learning’ (2nd edition published 2009). Diana has taught all ages from Foundation Stage to Key Stage 4. She is now an independent education consultant trainer and continues to teach learners of all ages; this is where she continues to develop her own understanding about learning!

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Plymouth Project

‘As a staff we have grown ‘Pupils really enjoy their learning in this good school. greatly from your input Their increasing understanding of and the focus has shifted how to be a successful learner is from teaching to learning. helping them to make the best of You have been inspiring their lessons. As one pupil said “I and motivational to both don’t mind if I get anything teachers and TAs.’ wrong because I learn Deputy Headteacher from my mistakes.”’ Isle of Wight Somerset Junior

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