Children's perspectives of primary school environments

Woods, Lois (2018) Children's perspectives of primary school environments. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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It has been recognised for many years that children learn from direct experiences with their surrounding environments (Weinstein and David, 1987). Considering children spend the majority of their early lives occupying school buildings, the quality of this built environment is important as it is thought to have an impact on their learning, social development and well-being. The architectural design of school environments, procured over the past 15 years has been constantly evolving with the need for new and improved school buildings coupled with significant changes in education over the past few decades.

In the UK, during the 2000s, there was significant investment in the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, with a desire to achieve high quality inspirational environments that enhance learning (DfES, 2003c), where design quality was considered an important factor to address issues of sustainability, flexibility and adaptability (DfES, 2002b). As such, there has been significant research undertaken into school design, which has found that certain elements of the environment may have an impact on learning and achievement. However, a change in government in 2010 led to the existing school building programmes at the time being axed and the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP) being introduced in 2011, with baseline design guidelines and the aim to make school construction more cost-effective (National Audit Office, 2017). During the economic downturn, it became apparent that some elements of school design were being omitted to reduce building costs. Considering the current situation, this poses the question: what impact does the latest wave of school buildings have on the users and their experiences in these new settings? Optimising the design of school buildings remains important, and in order to achieve this, we need to examine some of our existing and recently constructed school buildings.

This thesis reviews the current situation by investigating the impact of ‘new’ primary school buildings on children’s experiences and their daily lives at school, conducting a post-occupancy investigation of four case study schools. The qualitative research targeted the end-users, the children themselves, by exploring their views on their schools. The research also highlights the potential of participatory techniques through use of creative methods, providing an understanding of primary school buildings through the children’s eyes, giving them a voice within the research. The findings identify that, from the children’s perspective, new primary schools are to an extent, providing sufficient spaces in which to learn. However, it remains that there are some environmental issues which are affecting children. The importance of the holistic school environment has been highlighted as well as desirable spaces and places for children at school, with an emphasis on outdoor spaces and the natural environment. By providing insights into their daily experiences, the findings suggest that such spaces ought to be considered higher priority in the design process.

The research aims to set a precedent for architects and designers, providing an insight into four post-occupancy case studies, whilst looking forward to integrating participatory techniques in future school evaluation and design. By enriching existing knowledge in the area of school environments, it provides fresh information that will continue to aid the future design of schools by architects, which ultimately, has the potential to have a positive impact on development and well-being.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Heath, Timothy
Rutherford, Peter
Keywords: children, schools, primary schools, built environment, school buildings, education, child perspective
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary education
N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering
UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
Item ID: 51143
Depositing User: Woods, Lois
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2018 04:41
Last Modified: 08 May 2020 08:16

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