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Report on condition of schools launched by Brian Lightman

Survey of teachers finds learning environment has a notable impact on attainment, behaviour and engagement

Posted by Stephanie Broad | March 30, 2016 | Facilities & buildings

A landmark report on the condition of UK schools published by the Smarter Spaces campaign, and launched by Brian Lightman, has found that more than 80% of teachers believe the learning environment has a notable impact on learners’ attainment, behaviour and engagement, yet fewer than four per cent of teachers feel schools are in an excellent condition with widespread concerns being raised about a lack of space, poor layouts and declining durability, particularly in newer builds.  

The survey of 184 teachers across the primary and secondary sectors saw a consistent call for more storage space, increased natural light, writable surfaces and regulated temperature. Wider findings included:

  • A clear desire from teachers to be more involved in the design of their schools going forward, and so too for learners themselves to participate.
  • Only one in five schools have applied for additional funding to support the development of their learning environments, with just 13% of those who have tried being successful and four per cent receiving the full funding requested.
  • A call from teachers to be given more ideas on how they might secure additional funding beyond the Department for Education, including through crowdfunding and other online tools 

Alongside the release of the report, the Smarter Spaces campaign – powered by Dulux and with backers including the CBI, TeachFirst and Academies Enterprise Trust – also launched its 2016 Young Designers Competition. For a second year running, this gives learners the chance to work together to design the school of their dreams. Entries will be judged by the Smarter Spaces Learner Teacher Council, who will choose a primary and secondary entry to be made into a reality. The winning schools will each receive £5,000 worth of design and decoration services to help transform their schools according to the design submitted by their learners. The competition will close on Friday 27 May 2016. 

A breakout space at West Nottinghamshire College

Speaking at the launch, Matt Pullen, Managing Director of Dulux, said: “It’s been clear to us for quite a while just what a dramatic impact the learning environment has on teachers and learners, and these survey results serve only to confirm this. It’s concerning, however, just how few schools have a really great learning environment and the lack of funds available to help them change this. We hope the report marks the beginning of a successful campaign to improve learning environments and the Smarter Spaces Coalition will be central to this.” 

Brian Lightman, former General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “What message are we sending to teachers, parents and pupils if we have schools which are cold, damp and falling apart? If we value our schools then well-designed learning environments matter, and this report shows that teachers are crying out for help. The Smarter Spaces campaign has the power to reinvigorate schools and drive up standards and I’m thrilled by its growing number of supporters from across the education and design sectors. I think this is a terrific opportunity to involve more pupils and teachers in the design of their schools and look forward to supporting the campaign as it continues to flourish.”

The Smarter Spaces campaign launched last year to grow understanding of the current condition of learning environments and the physical factors that can support education. 

Over the past year the campaign has grown into a coalition of influential figures who are collectively committed to the campaign, including Janet Hayward, the Schools Network, Teach First and CBI to name a few.

Read the report here. 


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