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Architecture and academics

By Berit Griffin, Marvin Windows January 3, 2013

How does the design of a school make a difference to learning? According to an English study, it can help quite a bit — 25 percent, to be exact. Researchers from the University of Salford and architectural firm Nightingale Associates studied elementary school students in Blackpool to evaluate how design elements such as light and air quality affected students’ ability to learn. You can read the complete survey here.

Others in the education field have their doubts though:

“Education secretary Michael Gove has dismissed the significance of the study and is pushing ahead with plans to build 261 primary and secondary schools using the new ‘baseline’ templates. A spokeswoman from the department for education said: “There is no convincing evidence that spending enormous sums of money on school buildings leads to increased attainment. An excellent curriculum, great leadership and inspirational teaching are the keys to driving up standards.”"

Both sides have compelling arguments. Good design is important and if it can improve students’ academic performance, it’s worth it. On the other hand, times are tough right now and there might not be a lot of money to put towards design. Maybe there’s a middle ground here: it would be helpful to see architects providing a range of options to meet all schools’ needs and budgets. We’d also be interested in seeing other larger, multi-year studies to learn more about school design’s impact on grades. What do you think?

Graphic courtesy of Dezeen.