What impact do school buildings have on learning outcomes?

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What impact do school buildings have on learning outcomes?

You might assume that measuring the impact your buildings have on student learning and productivity would be difficult. However, several studies, which we’ll look at in more detail, have found a direct link between the two. With that in mind, we look at how academic building design affects student performance and explore the steps you can take to build with learning outcomes in mind.

The state of academic buildings in the UK

Currently, 174 schools and colleges in England are affected by crumbling reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). The result is that thousands of children are being taught in portocabin classrooms. Whether ‘pupils prefer portacabin classrooms’, as suggested by the Education Secretary, is up for debate. But we do know that many students are now being taught in temporary facilities that are not designed with productivity and attainment in mind. 

The ongoing RAAC issue is just a small part of the problem. In England alone, 4,000 schools require immediate restoration, nine in 10 need repairs and more than 60% were built before 1976. Many more school buildings lack basic essentials, such as adequate lighting, heating and ventilation, while others are missing paperwork like electrical test certificates and fire risk assessments.   

The correlation between school buildings and learning outcomes

Studies have found that both the exterior and interior design of school buildings can have a direct impact on learning outcomes. 

  • A 2012 study by the University of Salford found that school layouts and factors such as natural light, temperature, air quality and classroom orientation can improve or worsen the performance of students by as much as 25%. 
  • A 2015 study found that the physical features of learning spaces, such as private and public spaces that are quiet and colourful, can stimulate emotions, create a sense of security and prepare students to learn. 

The studies show that the internal design of school buildings has more of an impact than the external architecture, but a welcoming exterior still has a positive effect. 

And it’s not just the students who are impacted by school buildings. Teachers in physical learning spaces that meet modern environmental and educational criteria are more motivated and enthusiastic. Outdated buildings have the opposite effect, negatively affecting the morale and effectiveness of teachers. 

What do better school buildings look like?

How can you inspire the next generation through school building design? Here are six elements to focus on:

  • Classroom design – Distinctive room design and characteristics, areas pupils can personalise and furniture that’s versatile and comfortable can help you create child-centred learning spaces.  
  • Daylight – A 1999 study found that natural daylight in classrooms improved the students’ performance in maths tests by 20% and reading literacy tests by 26%. Simple changes like large windows and curtain walling can create bright and spacious learning environments.
  • Indoor air quality – Ventilation in schools, whether it’s provided mechanically or by natural airflows, can improve concentration, reduce CO2 levels and help students flourish. 
  • Temperature – Buildings that are too hot or too cold detrimentally affect learning outcomes. Natural ventilation, solar shading, mechanical ventilation and good airflow across the space can remove those temperature extremes.  
  • Acoustic environment – Freedom from intrusive background noise originating from inside or outside the school can enhance communication and make it easier to concentrate. 
  • Stimulation – Balancing colour and complexity can create vibrant learning environments that achieve positive outcomes such as increased attention span and lower levels of eye fatigue.  

How can we help?

At Eddisons Education, we can support you in every aspect of your school building design, from obtaining Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) funding to the architecture and design work and project managing the construction. Get in touch to find out how we can help you create brilliant school spaces that enhance performance and wellbeing.   

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