Author(s): Barrett, Peter; Zhang, Yufan; Davies, Fay; Barrett, Lucinda
Publisher(s): University of Salford
Pages: 51 p.
Based on the results of the HEAD Project (Holistic Evidence and Design), funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, clear evidence has been found that well-designed primary schools boost children’s academic performance in reading, writing and maths. Differences in the physical characteristics of classrooms explain 16% of the variation in learning progress over a year for the 3766 pupils included in the study. Or to make this more tangible, it is estimated that the impact of moving an ‘average’ child from the least effective to the most effective space would be around 1.3 sub-levels, a big impact when pupils typically make 2 sub-levels progress a year. In this context the researchers on the HEAD project worked for the last three years, carrying out detailed surveys of 153 classrooms from 27 very diverse schools and collecting performance statistics for the pupils studying in those spaces. The success of the study comes from taking into account a wide range of sensory factors and using multilevel statistical modeling to isolate the effects of classroom design from the influences of other factors, such as the pupils themselves and their teachers. Three types of physical characteristic of the classrooms were assessed: Stimulation, Individualisation and Naturalness. Surprisingly, whole-school factors (eg size, navigation routes, specialist facilities, play facilities) do not seem to be anywhere near as important as the design of the individual classrooms. This point is reinforced by clear evidence that it is quite typical to have a mix of more and less effective classrooms in the same school. The message is that, first and foremost, each classroom has to be well designed.