Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investments

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Facility of the week

Devonshire Primary School, Blackpool, UK-England

The design for the school was the fruit of a theoretical research project commissioned by the UK Government called "Building Schools for the Future: Exemplar Schools". The UK Government commissioned eleven design practices to develop theoretical model ‘Exemplar Schools’ each tailored to a specific (notional) setting, in this case, a generic, reconfigurable, ‘kit of parts’ approach on a tight urban site. Set on an urban site in North Blackpool – an area of high social and economic deprivation – the Council resolved to build a beacon primary school as a centre piece of their regeneration strategy, demonstrating their faith in the power of education a significant tool in the regeneration of local communities.

Christened the “Beehive School”, the generic multi-level school is orientated around an internal street from east to west, so that the learning houses face north, benefiting from good day lighting but not overheating, and the play decks face south, where they benefit from the sun but also provide shelter and shade when required. The building is ‘stratified’ in section such that all administration, community facilities, early years and whole school ‘social’ spaces (hall/ dining & LRC) are on the ground floor. KS1 (years 1, 2, 3) classrooms are on the first floor , KS2 (years 4, 5, 6) classrooms are on the second floor. The design allows for community and parent access to early years and community spaces throughout the day and ‘out of hours’ to facilitate extended school use and the use of the school’s communal facilities as a community hub. The configuration of KS1 and KS2 spaces shared SEN facilities at the heart of the plan where they are highly accessible, but also benefit from a degree of privacy – so SEN can support mainstream teaching in adjacent KS1/KS2 class bases. External (elevated) ‘play decks’ are configured at levels 1 & 2 immediately adjacent to the KS1 and KS2 class bases. These provide weather protected semi-external play space for year round use, as well as providing an extended learning resource and breakout space immediately adjacent to KS1 and KS2 class bases. The roof of the main hall is also fully accessible as a landscaped technology garden.

The building was designed to achieve a BREEAM Excellent rating. The building is constructed using exposed concrete soffits to provide thermal mass to assist with temperature regulation. The building is orientated at right angles to a busy main road. Road noise necessitated a mixed mode mechanical ventilation solution to address acoustic requirements. An energy efficient mechanical vent system is provided with heat recovery. User controlled openable windows have also been provided on north and south elevations to permit cross ventilation when required. Other sustainable features include sensor controlled low energy lighting, rainwater harvesting, child friendly, electronic ‘environmental Aawareness’ panel giving weather/ temperature and energy usage information, sited in the school’s main circulation space, and tech-deck ‘science garden’ to promote interactive lessons and bio-diversity.

The innovative learning environment has allowed the school to teach and manage its learners in new ways. The highly accessible ground floor ‘street’ which links the school’s communal spaces has facilitated the extension of the school day, which now runs from 8.00am – 5.30pm, providing breakfast and after school clubs. The proximity of the play decks to every classroom has allowed teachers to manage their days more flexibly, with short, spontaneous ‘brain breaks’ taken as and when the teachers see fit. The small group rooms, sited between each classroom, have allowed more flexible teaching, with TAs leading guided learning sessions with smaller groups of learners, while larger group teaching continues in the main classrooms. Toilets usage is also managed more flexibly, with children using the toilets (which are sited immediately next to the classrooms at every level) on a ‘need to go’ basis. This has completely eliminated the behavioural issues often associated with toilets in primary (and secondary) schools. Security has also been improved. The children now have a far greater sense of security, both in the playground and in their elevated position on the play decks.

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About this database

The OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments (CELE) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) launched the “Database of Best Practices in Educational Facilities Investment” on 29 September 2011. It seeks to inform the planning, design, construction, management and evaluation of educational spaces, combining resources for strategic investment in educational infrastructure, with exemplary school and university facilities from all over the world.

Drawing on the output of a joint CELE/European Investment Bank project on “Strategic Investment Planning for Educational Infrastructure” and more than 60 exemplary schools and universities featured in CELE’s flagship publication, “Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011”, this database is a unique international resource for educators, designers, policymakers and researchers alike.

Users of the database are encouraged to add their own resource material, or submit new completed university or school projects for publication on the database. OECD and EIB welcome your input to our project!

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The OECD Centre for Effective Learning Environments (CELE) presents the top 6 school and university buildings in ”Designing for Education: Compendium of Exemplary Educational Facilities 2011”.

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