Tests of Change is a service developed by Architecture & Design Scotland to help Schools and Local Authorities across Scotland to create improved learning and teaching spaces which better meet people’s needs.
Over the past decade there has been a significant transformation in the development of Scotland’s educational facilities. Higher education has been leading in this regard; embracing a more dynamic approach to spatial use and settings by supporting a variety of learners needs. Students can often be found on beanbags reading books or working together in study pods or a booth, much like you would see people socialising in a café.
In comparison, the school estate hasn’t progressed as radically in approaches to learning and teaching. Despite a committed phase of investment in new build and renovation works, school spaces are often arranged in a fashion we all know too well.
Pressures of procurement models, annual funding and the development of new approaches to meeting learners needs, presents an extremely challenging task for school leadership. Through Tests of Change, A&DS has helped schools throughout Scotland investigate the way they use space to make more of the resource available. Participation by teachers and pupils is fundamental to this process, with change led by issues and opportunities highlighted by those that use the building.
The journey begins with a discussion and collective agreement of how spaces within their school could be better used. Ideas are then built by pupils in a low cost, high impact trial or ‘space hack’ to see what might work in any given school space. The outcome of the space hack provides engagement in the change process and evidence of what’s possible and where.
Solutions are often found in well considered furnishings; addressing specific learner needs or teaching styles and located outwith the classroom within the corridors and spaces beyond.
A pioneering school which has embraced this process and delivered significant improvements for the teachers and pupils is Our Lady of the Missions (OLM) primary school in East Renfrewshire. Through collaboration with Studio 42 Design, A&DS were able to outline a strategy of opportunities in changing space to better meet the needs of the school. Catherine Dillon-Ruddy, headteacher of OLM quickly transformed the school through the introduction of a dedicated STEM space and calling on parents to help construct a variety of learning settings throughout the school grounds.
In realising the possibilities of a better learning environment, OLM appointed Alice Jacobs of Flux Laser & CNC Studio to collaborate with the pupils to design and fabricate bespoke furnishings. This group came to be known as the ‘Space Pioneers’. This project and the stories of other schools embarking on Tests of Change will be featured through Mid-August to Mid-October as part of its ‘A Year of Timber’ series in Gallery 2A of The Lighthouse.