Pandemic School Design

This week marked the return to the school classroom for the majority of the UK’s pupils and teachers, albeit a very different normal than the one that they left 6months ago.

Covid 19 has turned teaching upside down, with the traditional classroom no longer present in everyday society. Social distancing, bubbles and now face marks have become the new norm, yet the impact on learning for the long term is yet to be seen fully.

The pandemic has given rise to the opportunity to retool, redesign and re-invigorate schools and their teaching practices so that it looks very different from the all too familiar place we all associated with in pre-Covid, where rows upon rows of classrooms, each with one teacher helplessly struggling to impart ‘knowledge’ to an increasingly disinterested audience, defined the mass school layout.

The disruptive changes that Covid 19 have brought about have, however, huge potential to impact on how we improve the what, how and why of our future classrooms and wider education as a whole.

So what does the future school classroom and indeed future teaching environment look like? At TaylorHare we have been developing a series of thoughts, ideas and suggestions of how one might picture a Covid_19 ready teaching environment. Some of this is outlined within the following text and associated drawings.

Research

Unesco have published data, which calculated that 15.4m students’ education was disrupted by institution closures in the UK between  20th March – 30th June 2020. 64 consecutive school days missed for 4.8m primary and 6.3m secondary school pupils, respectively. This coming week pupils are due to return to school.

What does a Covid-19 ready classroom look like? 

Antiquated Approaches

The Victorians were pioneers of public health and order.  Unquestionably, social distancing in the classroom minimised the spread of health issues from one pupil to another. However, discipline and punishment (incompatible with school values of today) also defined approaches to classroom separation more in line with the Foucauldian efficiencies of prison planning rather than the wellbeing of pupils.

Technology

During the Covid-19 lockdown, video conferencing softwares proved useful in keeping school communities connected, virtually. Teacher’s classroom interactive screens rely on pupils’ attention being direct forward in a planar manner. It is possible that technology offers solutions on a local level in unlocking the way physical learning environments are arranged in the future.

The Social Distancing Classroom

We place emphasis on the school environment as a place for interaction, exposure and life experience and for demonstrating the productive advantages of team work. Priorities for a socially distanced classroom of the future include: minimised exposure to surface/airborne infection; social interactivity and communication; emphasis on team work and discussion.

What and Where?

1. Hand washing facilities

A cost-effective, simple. unplugged hand washing basin, which is moveable, deals with waste and water usage on a local level and is designed to minimise physical contact with the hands (i.e. conventional taps) clearly has many advantages. The unplugged nature of the design also means that it is equally deployable in developing off-grid community schools across the world. Water usage and wastefullness can be minimised and waste water can be dispensed of in school grounds through sustainable principles (SUDS etc.).

2. Workspaces for social learning

In a more holistic way technology has the power to be far more engaging including screen sharing, heads up display, ‘mark-ups’ and cloud based live document editting – this would radicalise the way we approach the classroom and address the heirachy between teacher and pupil.

The integrated and ergonomic shield enables safe face-to-face exchange and performs particularly well in radial arrays. The desk would also incorporate a standing function for better spine health and development. The HeadsUp desk relates in aesthetic with the hand washing station and incorporates familiar references to the medical design canon.