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Week 4

Week 4

Our Planning Learning Spaces in Practice project at Grey Lynn school, New Zealand, has continued to support the staff in re-thinking and further developing the critical links between pedagogy and space in their new collaborative learning environments. The staff and...

Week 3

Week 3

This week the PLS team went to Trumpington Park Primary School to create a new learning space. After months of planning, analysing the School vision and building links between pedagogy and space, we were able to deliver and install the new kit that the staff had...

Week 2

Week 2

The staff and students at Grey Lynn school in New Zealand have moved from single cell, teacher-directed group organisation into open collaborative spaces, in line with developing New Zealand government policy. This has left principal, Alicia Whata, with the challenge...

Week 1

Week 1

Schools and governments around the world are starting to recognise that learning spaces have a significant impact on academic attainment.  There is a growing body of research showing that classrooms purposefully designed to support the learning activities that go on...

PLS in practice

  • Week 9

    This week, our New Zealand co-ordinator, Doug Crutch, went to visit the staff and students at Grey Lynn to see how the school was progressing with their new way of learning. After being introduced to the PLS process and its take on zones and activities, the staff at Grey Lynn School are in an ongoing process of getting to grips with how these changes will work in practice. Having transitioned from single-cell to more open-plan learning spaces, it takes time to define the learning activities and areas where students will gather to learn. The staff are keen to work with their students to work out what zones should look like and the types of activities that take place in them. A large collaborative space for 90 students works differently to the traditional square classroom for 30 students. The return of the blank printed floor plans and the 1:40 scale models that were used during the PLS process became very handy to allow staff to look at different ways to distribute the activities and the affect that has on the movement of students. The next stage for staff was to see in practice what so called nooks and zones were going to be most suitable for specific activities. Some zones were found to be able to host a couple of different activities at the same time such as a workshop as well as paired groups. Other zones were found to be suited for dedicated activities only, such as a makerspace or low sensory area. As one would expect, the year groups had a big influence on what activities took place and what those activities looked like. An Individual learning session for years 1 and 2 looks quite different to that of years 5 and 6. After the completion of the theory units of the PLS process, towards the second half of last year, the Year 5 & 6s were able to quickly define zones in their space and their students adapted well to the changes to the layout and the new way of learning. However, it became difficult to maintain the momentum due to a couple of Covid 19 lockdowns that came at the end of the year. The beginning of this year saw the arrival of new staff members and students moving up the year groups. These changes have required the staff to see if a review of their zones and activities are required and what new perspectives may now be required. One area that became evident last year was a need to clearly identify across all year groups, the expectations of the school as to what the activity was and how it was going to be conducted in the zone. Our next blog post from Grey Lynn will look at how the school plans to clearly convey these expectations to the staff, students and the wider community.

  • Week 8

    Staff at Trumpington Park Primary School are pleased about having their newly designed learning space available, ready for students to use at the start of the Summer term. Reflecting on their new Year 4 learning environment, teachers Emma Norman and Anna Patuck give us their views; “Our new year 4 space feels fresh, bright and spacious and it allows flexibility in the classroom for learning. Nothing in the classroom is fixed which means the style of teaching and learning can be altered depending on the lesson, which is fantastic,” says Emma Norman. “I am particularly happy with the sense of space that has been created in which I can see how the children will be able to move around more freely and work in different ways. There are lots of exciting and innovative elements within the design that I am looking forward to using with the children. I can clearly see how the room promotes collaborative learning which was the overriding criteria that emerged from the design process,” explains Anna Patuck. It was clear from the very beginning of the process that both teachers wanted to start getting their students ready for a new change. With this in mind, one area that they were keen to change was how the teacher input was delivered. Whilst teaching her class, Anna wanted to deliberately test out teaching specific lessons from different areas within the room. She wanted to see whether her students would continue to engage and concentrate in their learning even though she was standing or sitting in a different spot within the classroom. It was clear that Anna wanted to break the mould of the usual traditional model of standing at the front of the class to deliver a teaching input. The teachers also wanted to be able to move around freely in order to engage and work with different students. From one of our early workshops focussing on the school vision, it became clear that the school wanted to implement in their next practice, the ability of their students to take more ownership and responsibility for their learning. In designing the space with the school, it became important to create activity-led learning zones that would provide the wide range of choice and opportunity needed to enhance their delivery of the curriculum. This enabled the teacher to facilitate, and the students to make choices as to where, when and how to learn. Within the new design, we have collaboratively created an adaptable and agile learning space that meets the needs of all students and their teachers.

  • Week 7

    Making a reality of your vision It is rewarding to see as we are developing our PLS process in practice, how reflecting on the vision of a school, defining current and next practice are key design drivers for the design of new spaces in schools. This further supports the process of engaging all stakeholders around issues of design in schools. As part of the workshops we deliver, we understand how important it is to work with a range of school staff in order to gain a broad insight into the school’s vision. At both our pilot schools, we have worked with a range of teaching and support staff to ensure different voices are heard. At Grey Lynn School (New Zealand), Principal Alicia Whata says “The school vision while easily spoken requires the leader of the school the principal to enact and make action of our vision. Our leadership team has been provided with incredible support and a very specific way of thinking so that systems and processes can support our people to make that vision a reality in our spaces. The Planning Learning Spaces Framework has provided an opportunity for us in our school to develop clarity around how the learning is organised here. The teachers in any school organisation have the greatest impact on whether an experience and learning are positive or negative, therefore the outcomes that we are seeking through the very specific ways that we’re thinking of working with Planning Learning Spaces has really forced us to think about what our practice used to look like in a single classroom in a single cell space and how we move to a collaborative environment. It’s truly a case of moving from ‘me’ to ‘we’.” By taking staff through our school vision workshop, we are ensuring that the school values underpin the core design principles that are put into the new learning space. Deputy Principal at Grey Lynn School, Toni Jarmin, says “This valuable work is being systemized to ensure levels of accountability to drive our school vision for learning.” Reflecting on the work her staff carried out as part of the PLS workshop, Alicia Whata explains the positive impact it is having on her staff to work with the school vision. “This work is very supportive in connecting how our teachers organize learning every day ensuring alignment with our school vision.”

  • Week 6

    As a result of the successful implementation of our PLS process at two schools, we will be showcasing the Design Framework we have created at the GESS Dubai Education Global Leadership Summit next week. By joining us for the virtual session, you will gain an insight as to what our PLS process involves and how it works effectively for any school environment. The Planning Learning Spaces Core Team will be presenting our findings and they include; Murray Hudson– Managing Director, Gratnells LtdTerry White– PLS DirectorBhavini Pandya– PLS UK Lead facilitatorSandra Jenkins– PLS NZ facilitator By working closely with school staff and students we take them through this process which will be explained in more detail at our GESS presentation; Explore the school’s vision and values and how they translate into the day-to-day observable behaviours for learning and teaching.Review their current and intended next practice for learning and teaching in line with the PLS framework headings.Translate these outcomes into learning activities and behaviours for learning to inform the design approach.Re-imagine the interior design of the intended new spaces and learning zones within the school.Develop and test the new organizational model needed to collaboratively deliver the required learning and teaching experience.Develop a strategy for change to develop and transition into the new learning spaces.Review and evaluate the use of spaces. The PLS process has enabled the schools that we work with to create and re-imagine their learning spaces. In focusing collaboratively on developing the next practice we have supported the re-design of existing learning environments and the transition from single-cell rooms to more open-plan collaborative spaces. Commenting on how the PLS process made staff reflect, Principal Alicia Whata says “We were able to think of these key questions; what are the learning needs of our students? How do we need to organise the learning to make this happen? and how does our learning space design and organisation enhance and facilitate this process?” The PLS framework itself is a very reflective process that allows all key stakeholders to continually judge the effectiveness of the changes that have been made, to ensure it is having a positive impact on both the teachers and learners. Join us at the GESS presentation to find out more information.

  • Week 5

    You cannot design a learning space without understanding the pedagogy behind it. To fully comprehend what a learning space needs, you must work with the teachers to find out whether they are able to use the space effectively or whether it needs to be modified to have the best possible outcome on the learning and teaching. Staff at Trumpington Park Primary School were keen to design a space that was suitable for their year 4 students. After taking them through the initial phase of our process which focussed on collecting data, analysing the school’s ethos and vision statement, we started to look at what was working well in their current space and areas they wanted to enhance further in the next space. This allowed us to concentrate on the PLS key themes such as pedagogy, curriculum experience and organisation of learning. Staff were able to reflect on their current approaches on learning and teaching and the ways they wanted to enhance them for future practice. The challenge: During the current and next practice workshop, they identified that they found it difficult to re-group students effectively and quickly. As this was one area that the staff wanted to look into further for their next practice, they had to articulate how and what they would need in order to overcome this challenge. In their current classroom, students would be sat in groups of 6 at the rectangular tables that most primary schools use. This in itself, made it difficult because students were not able to move these independently and it would take up a lot of the learning time to re-arrange the furniture in order to meet a specific task. The year four teachers saw this as a real issue because ultimately curriculum time is precious and they didn’t want to be seen as wasting time moving tables and chairs around to suit the needs of the children. In reviewing their practice, the staff have identified other design models to compliment the range of activities that would be delivered in the learning space. By allowing the staff to identify what challenges they were facing and then think of possible ways to overcome these, gave the PLS team ideas to work with in order to find multiple solutions. The solution: Designed new tables that could sit four students together- ideal group size for this class The table is triangular shaped, light, and has a writable surface for students to use. Students are able to move each table by themselves as it is very lightweight and has a wheel to support moving it around learning zones Tables can be configured in different ways depending on the learning activities taking place- independent/paired work or group work The learning environment has been further developed with the use of circular and flipped write-on tables for the group to gather around Tables of different heights have also been included to offer students a range of individual and collaborative learning experiences. Multiple ways of having children work at tables and gives the children opportunities to decide how they want to learn and with whom. Join me again next week where I will be going back to Grey Lynn School in New Zealand to find out from the staff how their new spaces are working for them. Bhavini Pandya

  • Week 4

    Our Planning Learning Spaces in Practice project at Grey Lynn school, New Zealand, has continued to support the staff in re-thinking and further developing the critical links between pedagogy and space in their new collaborative learning environments. The staff and students have moved from single cell, teacher-directed group organisation into open collaborative spaces. This left the new principal, Alicia Whata, with the challenge of transitioning staff and learners from their existing practices based around a ‘single- cell’ approach to working in more open and collaborative spaces in their new learning zones. Headteacher, Alicia Whata, identified that in order to effectively work collaboratively in the new spaces and ensure that all learners and staff benefit from the learning gains of the new design, they would need to go through a process of reflection around their current and future learning practice and the new ways they would need to organise the learning. Grey Lynn’s school vision focuses on three main areas; Learning, collaboration and future-focused. With this in mind, collaboration was a key area that all staff wanted to ensure they developed in the new design brief for the learning spaces. After having taken all key staff through the PLS framework with the support from Project Director Terry White and lead facilitator Sandra Jenkins, the staff feel ready to use their new learning and design model more effectively. Staff from the school have commented, “We appreciate the opportunities that the PLS process and workshops have given us to reflect and discuss the issues that impact teaching and learning in our learning hub, and to collaboratively generate solutions to any challenges”. Deputy Principal, Otelani Kiata says “This strategic work has given the leadership team opportunities to dive deep to ensure that we have the systems in place that give traction to the why, the how and the what we do, ensuring all aspects align with our vision statement to “Learn today to Shape Tomorrow”. As part of the PLS UK Core team, I am pleased to see that our PLS process is having such a profound effect on the way teachers deliver lessons at Grey Lynn School. Our goal from day one has been to ensure all school staff have a voice when it comes to the design of learning spaces and to feel empowered to make changes. This is the case at Grey Lynn and it’s great to see plans being adapted for future learning. Next week I will be taking you back to our project at Trumpington Park Primary School, here in the UK, to talk with staff about their thoughts on the newly designed space. Bhavini Pandya  

  • Week 3

    This week the PLS team went to Trumpington Park Primary School to create a new learning space. After months of planning, analysing the School vision and building links between pedagogy and space, we were able to deliver and install the new kit that the staff had carefully chosen for the learning environment. We have taken the staff through the PLS framework and the different design models and they have identified the types of learning activities they wanted the children to experience. The following areas have been implemented in the new learning environment to provide spaces for ICT, group work, independent learning, quiet learning and reading. Pedagogy and space go hand in hand, and as we’ve said before, you have to understand that teaching practices that take place in a room before you can understand how the room should be styled because this could lead to the space being used ineffectively. For staff at Trumpington Park Primary school, they wanted to give children the options of where and how they wanted to learn. Therefore, it was important to have a range of spaces where children could either work as part of a group, in a pair or independently. In addition to this, the staff wanted to look at a range of seating options that would allow their children to focus and engage more in their learning by allowing them to make more choice and move freely around the learning environment. By carefully designing new types of tables, for example, we have given the staff and children at Trumpington Park Primary school infinite options of how they could deliver a lesson or activity. The Gratnells Learning Rooms tables can fit together in so many different ways that allow the children to choose if they want to work with a peer or independently. With every surface in the room now a write-on surface, we have given the children the ability to be creative in a purposeful way. We have co-created with the staff, an adaptable and flexible learning environment that can be easily reconfigured to suit all learners in highly creative and innovative ways. The PLS process has motivated staff to reflect on all available spaces within the existing classroom. The conversion of the existing cloakroom space has been transferred into the adjacent corridor allowing the alcove area to be used more effectively as a quiet study area. The PLS team would also like to thank Learniture and SpaceOasis for their support with the project tables which will be used for group work, and Hille for their support with the Pepperpot Stools in the new ICT area. I will be bringing you further updates on how the staff and children are using their new learning environment over the next few weeks. My focus next week returns to Grey Lynn school in New Zealand and I will be sharing more information about how the school are using our PLS Framework to transform it into a whole-school strategy. Bhavini Pandya

  • Week 2

    The staff and students at Grey Lynn school in New Zealand have moved from single cell, teacher-directed group organisation into open collaborative spaces, in line with developing New Zealand government policy. This has left principal, Alicia Whata, with the challenge of transitioning staff and learners from their existing practices to working in the new open-plan learning zones. Grey Lynn school have been one of the first to have gone through the Planning Learning Spaces in practice international projects. Having successfully gone through the PLS process with our project team, the school is now building upon the learning outcomes, the links between pedagogy and space and how this should be embedded in the design of their new learning environments. The staff at Grey Lynn have embraced the new collaborative spaces in their school and are constantly learning from one another as they continue through their next stage of development. As both the project facilitator at Grey Lynn and as a former principal, Sandra Jenkins says “I have witnessed how engaged and empowered staff have been throughout the PLS process. It has created an opportunity for staff to reflect upon their current and next practice at Grey Lynn school. Staff have been able to define the learning activities and behaviours that will ultimately shape the planning of their new learning spaces.” The PLS process at Grey Lynn has had a profound impact on the learners, staff and the community. It has shown staff at the school that change can be positive and impactful on learning and teaching. As Lead Project Facilitator and a former teacher, I am pleased that our PLS framework has allowed change to take place effectively at Grey Lynn school. For some teachers at other schools, the thought of changing something in the learning environment can often create apprehension, but the way in which our framework carefully guides the staff through different scenarios shows that changing the way things are done, can prove to be positive, successful and inspiring for all teaching staff and learners. As quoted by Sandra Jenkins (project facilitator) “Through following the PLS Framework, the school have redesigned their learning spaces in the most effective ways possible and now we must ensure we have continued sustainability going forward. The school have also identified the next steps that they wish to work on through their strategy for change plan. This will support the school to continue to reflect and review the effectiveness of their new collaborative spaces. It will be great to see the changes being implemented at Grey Lynn school over the next 12 months.” Look out for my next post, which will give you a recent update on our PLS project at Trumpington Park Primary School, here in the UK.   Bhavini Pandya  

  • Week 1

    Schools and governments around the world are starting to recognise that learning spaces have a significant impact on academic attainment.  There is a growing body of research showing that classrooms purposefully designed to support the learning activities that go on in them, rather than ‘one size fits all’ boxes, provide clear benefits to learners and teachers.  For schools that want to improve their learning environments, but need support with the process of change, help is at hand from the team behind the best-selling book Planning Learning Spaces.   The Planning Learning Spaces Design Framework helps schools to translate their educational vision into learning space design principles, enabling them to create new, or refurbish existing, spaces that actively support their learning goals.  Schools are guided through a reflective process, building the link between curriculum and design through a structured framework.  Focusing on the school’s vision, values and ethos, the process helps translate learning behaviours and activities into design principles.  The process builds consensus throughout the teaching staff and the wider school community to support sustained change, empowering schools to be creators of a new, ongoing relationship between pedagogy and space.  Our message is simple “you can’t successfully design education spaces unless you fully understand the learning and teaching practices they need to support”. The Planning Learning Spaces team along with Gratnells Learning Rooms and Professor Peter Barrett, have chosen a primary school based in Cambridge to be the first in the UK to pilot this project. Trumpington Park Primary School along with four other schools, belong to the Cambridge Primary Education Trust (CPET). As a Multi-Academy Trust, the schools within CPET have a passion for sharing great teaching practice with one another, to in turn, provide excellence for all their students. Trumpington Park Primary school welcomes children from the surrounding areas and is currently open to children in Reception to Year 4. As the school is newly built, it is not yet full to capacity. This means the school has flexibility in terms of the rooms they use for teaching and learning. The PLS team are excited to be launching the project here in the UK and by working with a school that not only celebrates change, but also learns from it, will prove meaningful in the journey we embark on. We will be bringing you regular updates as the project unfolds at Trumpington Park Primary School.





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