School Corridors + Playground Flow

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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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How does your school or college manage the flow of its students?

Ensuring the student population move around a school or college building safely is something that we may not necessarily consider in our day-to-day consciousness…

Crowded corridors?

Traffic flow is something architects and school leaders (who have been part of a new school build) have to consider in the design of a school building. I love a new build; I do think it makes a massive difference to student and staff mental health.

I have been part of two new secondary school builds, and in both circumstances, the decisions about where the pillars, the doors or the corridors sit on the design plans are instrumental to the long-term success of the school.

How a timetabler manages curriculum design is just as important when thinking about what year groups are moving between various spaces, and when. Prior to the pandemic, staggered starts were often an intervention for students at risk of exclusion or those with mental health or learning needs.

Now staggered starts, ends and lesson length have been a factor in most of our schools in response to COVID-19.

Fit for purpose

I have often argued with architects who do not live the reality of school life, that what appears to be a lovely wide corridor on a design plan and even during the initial concrete construction, can feel like a dark and squashed tunnel on a wet Monday afternoon. Especially when you are left behind managing 200+  year 11s moving out onto the corridors from their English lessons, just at the exact time another 200+ incoming year 9s enter the same space.

It’s pretty hard to find the architect to adjust the building’s snagging list once the steel foundations are cemented in!

Pastoral and safeguarding leads as well as timetablers and headteachers regularly consider the flow of student traffic. Running a school requires no stone unturned to ensure safeguarding students. It’s equally as important to consider flow during break and lunchtime just as much as this is considered for esson length and transitions.

In some cases, perhaps dependent on the physical space a school has available, staggering breaks for lunch also have to be factored. I had lived this experience too and it’s a nightmare. It can be even harder for schools and colleges operating on split sites!

For schools operating on a small budget, a staggered approach can be a real push on resources. One group of staff may be teaching whilst the others are on lunch duty or having a break. People are hard to reach on the radio and it can also cause significant disruption for teachers who are teaching lessons if the rest of the school building does not control traffic flow and any out of class behaviour.

Of course, traffic flow things can be managed with automated door and alarm systems, but not every school has new build features fitted with this technology.

Flow between lessons…

During the pandemic, traffic flow is something all teachers have had to be aware of; essential for the safety of staff and students to ensure a return to full-time education.

A recent TeacherTapp survey (n 8,281) asked ‘How does your school minimise the flow of students between lessons?’

Without understanding the location of each respondent and how the COVID-19 r-value is spreading, it’s hard to understand the data by region, but the options available in the survey give each of us something to consider. Whether silent corridors or wearing masks (or not), to minimise flow, schools have generally:

  1. Kept students in the same room throughout the day
  2. Staggered lesson times and break times
  3. Had teachers moving between classrooms, and
  4. Used a one-way system.

It would be interesting to see if any of these interventions are sustained after the pandemic. How do we define ‘minimse flow’? In terms of safety during the pandemic or general behaviour safety between lessons…

I’ve been a big fan of using one-way systems in large secondary schools for most of my career. When the rules are communicated regularly and followed consistently (by teaching staff too), then culture can change and confrontations can be avoided. Teachers can get down to the business of teaching and learning.

Although student outcomes (by progress score) will be skewed this academic year, it will be interesting to learn if staggered starts and ends to the day, plus lesson and break times make a difference to coronavirus transmission, as well as teaching, wellbeing and outcomes.

I would define outcomes by attendance, punctuality to lessons, including staff-voice too.

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