Well designed schools can substantially boost children’s academic performance, says a study. Here's how to implement its findings in your next educational facility project
Recent rsearch conducted by Professor Peter Barrett and his team of school design experts at the University of Salford shows clear evidence that well designed schools can boost children’s academic performance in reading, writing and maths.
The ground-breaking study, the HEAD Project (Holistic Evidence and Design), concludes that differences in the physical characteristics of classrooms explained 16 per cent of the variation in learning progress over a year for the 3,766 students included in the study. Put simply, the better designed the classroom, the better children do academically.
Discovering the vital design elements for improved learning
The findings outlined in the HEAD study reveal that certain design elements are intrinsic to improving learning in the classroom. These are:
- Indoor air quality
- Acoustic environment
- Classroom design
This is the first time clear evidence of the effect on users of the overall design of a physical learning space has been isolated in real life situations. In the past, specific aspects, such as air quality, have been studied, but how it all comes together for real people in real spaces has, until now, been based on gut feeling and wishful thinking. For three years, researchers on the HEAD project carried out detailed surveys of 153 classrooms from 27 diverse schools and collected performance statistics for pupils studying in those spaces.
Realising the importance of sensory factors
The study considered a wide range of sensory factors and used multi-level statistical modelling to isolate the effects of classroom design from other factors, such as the pupils themselves and their teachers.
'Surprisingly, whole-school factors (such as size, navigation routes, specialist facilities, play facilities) do not seem to be anywhere near as important as the design of the individual classrooms,' states the report. 'The message is that, first and foremost, each classroom has to be well designed.'
A Velux Commercial ebook gives practical guidelines on how to implement the HEAD findings in your next educational facility project. The design principles for optimal learning outcomes can also be applied to other types of buildings, creating better healthcare facilities, better work spaces and better living places.
The Velux Commercial guide, and the HEAD study on which it is largely based, assesses three primary physical characteristics of school design that have been found to be particularly influential to learning. These are:
- Naturalness: Light, temperature and air quality. These elements together account for half the learning impact of a school design.
- Classroom design (individualisation): Ownership and flexibility account for a quarter of the learning impact.
- Stimulation: Complexity and colour account for another quarter of the learning impact.
To download your free Velux Commercial guide and report summary, visit: velux.co.uk/building-better-schools