Making the most of space in an education setting

Making the most of space in an education setting

01 July 2020 By Sam Walting - Project Manager of Furniture and Design at YPO

school lockers being moved under stairs

With all the challenges faced by schools currently in terms of social distancing, now is as good a time as any to start putting any unused spaces to good use.

Having visited numerous schools it is noticeable that there are many spaces which aren’t necessarily used to their full potential. They may currently be used for storage purposes but could quite easily be used to create additional learning spaces for students, in line with current social distancing guidelines.

The following suggestions on utilising space will hopefully help you to reconsider storage options and room layouts to assist you in making the most of your floor space and create a more structured learning environment.

Review your storage solutions and the location of them

The first thing to approach when trying to utilise unused space, is to review what items are in storage which could potentially be taking up a lot of space or more space than necessary. It is also useful to assess your current storage solutions and address whether there may be a better solution.

Here's some ideas to get you started:

  • Check for any furniture or educational material which is not needed and could be removed from site.
  • If there are any metal lockers in situ, check their location and whether they could be moved to alcoves/corridors/under stair spaces.
  • If coat pegs and lockers are situated in the classroom, check to see if there are any spaces off the corridor that could contain these instead.
  • Any storage units situated in the centre of a room could be moved to the perimeter.
  • In a lot of instances and particularly within early years classrooms, storage units are used to create zones/spaces within a classroom. Consider using screens to create these zones instead as they take up a lot less space.

Assess available spaces and their potential use

It’s easy to lose sight of how a classroom is laid out and the potential working spaces that could be created.  The easiest way to create socially distanced working spaces and make the best use of your floor space is by moving any storage furniture to the perimeter of the room, allowing desks to be positioned within the main floor space available.

Breakout/soft seating areas can still be incorporated by positioning within a designated area at the corner of a room. Similarly, ‘cleaning stations’ can be incorporated within a classroom to the perimeter of the room and next to the entrance to promote a systematic cleaning routine.

Other available spaces may include areas within a music practice room, sports hall or dining hall. With these areas usually being the biggest within a school, it makes sense to review just how much of the said space is required for their usual purpose. For example, half of a sports hall could be cordoned off, freeing up space for another socially distanced classroom.

Similarly, if the number of lunchtime sittings are increased to adhere to social distancing guidelines within a dining hall, this could free up space to the perimeter of the room for a cleaning station to be used on entry. 

A lot of interactive whiteboards/blackboards form the focal point of a classroom and tend to sit proud from the wall. With this in mind, we have seen an increase in the demand for interactive learning walls. This makes use of the space either side of the whiteboard/blackboard and creates a flush learning wall, with incorporated storage solutions like the one below. The learning wall can also incorporate wet areas and teachers’ desks. 

storage whiteboard wall in classroom

As well as utilising the unused space you have, it’s important to consider how furniture can be used to support social distancing measures before opening back up your premises.


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