Smarter Spaces

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Writeable wall action shot - Cadoxton Primary School Smarter Spaces


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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When you think of a traditional classroom, what images come to mind?

The answer will most likely be magnolia walls, regimental rows of desks and harsh strip lighting. If that’s the case, providing enough good – and inspiring – school places is a basic responsibility for any government.

  1 in 5 teachers have considered quitting because of the wretched condition of the school buildings they have to teach in. (Source)

shutterstock_203926939 An Image of Classroom

Image: Shutterstock

A further 400,000 school places will be required by 2018-19 to accommodate a second expected peak in births. (Source)

School Places:

Despite extra places created in 2012-2014, the school system remains under strain, with a total of 256,000 new school places needed by 2014-15, of which 90% are primary. An additional 400,000 school places will be required by 2018-19 to accommodate a second peak in births which is bound to exacerbate the situation.

Our current school buildings do not have the capacity, or the longevity with many crumbling, creating poor learning and teaching conditions. I know. I have worked in at least 3 secondary school buildings on their knees! This is not ideal for teaching and learning and working in a brand new building, a modern environment definitely makes the difference.

New school designs are now 15% smaller than those built under BSF, and have smaller corridors, assembly halls, canteens and no standalone atria. (Source)

Dilapidated Buildings:

Urgent action is needed to relieve Britain’s overcrowded schools. The impact of a child’s physical and mental health across their school life is hugely significant. Exercise, a healthy diet and supporting social and emotional well-being are paramount to ensuring children can concentrate fully at school.

Yet, despite this, how we are designing our schools is falling short of their potential. We need to get it right otherwise we will be paying for our lack of investment for decades to come. Schools being built under the current government programme are just too cheap. The likely result of these designs will be increased maintenance costs alongside poorer results for pupils and teachers.

Research undertaken by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 2014 found that 80% of schools are operating beyond their life cycle – suggesting that the majority of our schools are unable to provide effective learning environments as they are simply past their best. (Source)

Smarter SpacesA report – published by Smarter Spaces in March 2016 surveyed teachers across the country – hopes to raise awareness of the huge difference that small changes to the classroom can have, revealed that over 80% believe the learning environment has a notable impact on learners’ attainment, behaviour and engagement. However, just 4% of teachers said schools are in an excellent condition.

Shockingly, only one in five teachers had applied for additional funding for their school and just 13% of those had been successful – with only 4% receiving all the funding requested.

Click to enlarge

Smarter Spaces:

Adding a splash of colour, warm lighting and ensuring a comfortable temperature can make a huge difference to the way learners and teachers think and feel – creating an enhanced learning environment. Understanding the current state of learning environments and the physical factors can support education and more importantly, learning.

Smarter Spaces Blue playroom action shot - Rosemary Works School


The Smarter Spaces campaign was launched last year to grow understanding of the current condition of learning environments and the physical factors that can support education. Beginning at a regional level, they have listened to those who have transformed their learning environments and truly believe in the value of creating Smarter Spaces in their schools.

Their mission is to help learners and teachers thrive through the power of their school environment by enabling:

  • Schools to design their environments to support better learning and teaching.
  • Learners and teachers to be involved in design, so they take more pride in their school
  • The school environment to be made part of teacher training, so its role becomes embedded in the profession.
  • The community – including small businesses and charities – to be involved in design projects, so more people have a stake in their local school.
  • Schools to share their experiences, so they forge a culture of partnership and ever-improving environments.

To do this Smart Spaces will:

  • Encourage learners and teachers to take an active role in design, so they’re invested in and proud of their schools.
  • Pool existing research and commission our own, so we expand knowledge of school design in the teaching profession.
  • Work with the education community and government to raise the profile of design in education and campaign for more investment to support it.
  • Develop the best ways for schools to improve their environments with experts at Dulux.

Yellow classroom non action shot - Rosemary Works School Smarter Spaces

Image: Smarter Spaces

Over the coming year, Smarter Spaces will be working to grow understanding of their work further, whilst inspiring and supporting schools across the country to make the change – be it through small tweaks or major overhauls.

You can follow their progress on Twitter via @smarterspaces16 and readers can join the campaign here.

Learner-Teacher Council

Over the past year the campaign has grown into a coalition of influential figures who are collectively committed to the campaign, including Janet Hayward OBE, the Schools Network, TeachFirst, CBI, Twinkl and Playforce to name a few. The Learner-Teacher Council – a small network of teachers who recognise the importance of learning environments – has also been set up.

Young Designers Competition:

Win £5,000 worth of design services for your school? Click here!

The competition closes on 27th May 2016.

Smarter Spaces are giving two schools – one primary and one secondary – the chance to win £5,000 of design and decoration services and bespoke learning resources.

  1. Creativity and functionality – how can you create ideas that are inspiring while also feasible in the constraints you have?
  2. Collaboration – how have you brought the rest of your school into the design process?
  3. Impact to school – how will your design suggestion positively impact your school?

Click to enlarge

Image: Smarter Spaces

Dulux is the leading provider of premium quality paint and design services in the UK. Teacher Toolkit and Dulux is supporting the Smarter Spaces campaign because we are passionate about transforming buildings and bringing colour to people’s lives.

Find Out More?

Contact the Smarter Spaces team at smarterspaces[AT]bellenden[DOT]


  1. Royal Institute of British Architects (2014) ‘Building Better Britain: A vision for the next Government’.
  2. Royal Institute of British Architects: Better Spaces for Learning.
  3. Department for Education: Capital funding for new school places.
  4. Department for Education: Primary and secondary school design.


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