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The Schools Environment Survey of 2010 showed that the learning environment is key to children’s behaviour and happiness - and over 95% of teachers agree.

At Smarter Spaces, we want to help make school environments more attractive, affordable and inspiring for teachers and learners.

To do this, we have gathered all of the evidence from existing research to inform our education design principles.

Areas of Consideration

By providing a calming space for children to retreat to, your school can reduce stress and boost wellbeing.

These areas can be within a classroom or an adjoining room and can provide considerable support for children with special educational needs and disabilities.

‘Research suggests evidence of profound benefits of the experience of nature for children’ (White 2006). To this end, try linking your school environment to the outdoors. That harmony with nature will promote social interaction, more imaginative play and empathy.

Design Principles


Pods or zoned areas give pupils space to work as a team; but they must be designed not to overwhelm the room or disturb those who prefer to work independently. Consider using bold accent colours to demark group zones. Create dedicated quiet zones with clever use of furniture and a distinct, more muted colour palette - think calming purples and greens.

Sensory Rooms

Quiet rooms are one example of a sensory controlled zone, a space to help children feel calm. Children with autism may benefit from further design specifications, such as curved walls and general openness. For example, position the furniture to the side of your sensory room, leaving the middle as free as possible.

Link to Nature

Take inspiration from nature for your colour palette and choice of fabrics. Contrast bold natural colours with neutral ones and materials like stone and wood for a sense of bringing the outside in. Accent with textured wall coverings, cladding and plants for a design at one with nature.


Case Study

Southbrook School, Devon

Following an inspection in 2013, Southbrook, a special educational needs (SEN) school was challenged to improve its literacy and reading.

Alan Tilley, Assistant Headteacher, explains that ‘Reading is not always easy if you have learning difficulties and often pupils have a very negative view of reading which wasn’t helped by the school library being outdated.’

Southbrook’s solution was inspired: to convert an old double decker bus into a new library! Enlisting local graffiti artists, the bus was transformed into a library unlike any other.

The school has since created a pupil librarian scheme, which has dramatically improved the school’s reading results at Key Stage 3.

Most importantly the school now has a library full of pupils experiencing the joy of reading.


Getting Started

Useful Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Am I providing enough space specifically for children with SEND?
  • Are there enough references to nature around the school?
  • Does the layout of my classrooms support different styles of learning?
  • Do we have areas in our school where learners can take time out to relax?

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How We Can Help You