School Buildings Literature Review

From January 2005 to July 2005
Project Leader(s): Elaine Hall and Kate Wall
Staff: Pam Woolner, Steve Higgins and David Leat
Contact: Kate Wall
Sponsors: CfBT


Against the background of current investment in school building and the Building Schools for the Future initiative, CfBT funded a literature review, which ran from February- July 2005, considering the effects of previous large-scale school building programmes. Although many observers are enthusiastic about government money being allocated to school-building, pointing out that investment is overdue, it is worth considering the implications of such a large programme of investment carried out within a limited time period. A ‘school of the future’ will be designed according to a particular view of what the future will be like and of what the needs of learners and employers will be. This ambitious programme of investment over a short time period could produce a lot of very similar structures, so the lessons of past waves of school building need to be examined. The review’s objectives were to:

• Investigate previous building programmes in the UK and in other countries

• Evaluate the results of these programmes, attempting to identify common themes and implications for Building Schools for the Future

Research paradigm

This review draws on previous work on school environments (Higgins, et al, 2005) and uses the techniques of historic and systematic review to interrogate the research databases and key journals in the field. Our analysis is thematic and iterative: as well as mapping the changes over time, we also focus on key barriers and drivers for change. Research methodology The research will progress through searching journals, reports, books and websites, as well as through attending relevant seminars. These will be the products of a range of disciplines, including education, architecture, social policy and history. A central theme will be the relationship of educational ideas and aims to the other elements of school design and building. Content It will be necessary to investigate the extent to which ideas become dated while in the process of being implemented and the possibility of anticipating coming changes, perhaps designing buildings able to accommodate them. It should be illuminating to consider which past initiatives or suggestions have been proposed, or even championed, but not adopted. Considering the reasons underlying these outcomes might have implications for predicting the futures of current ideas.

Publications arising

Higgins, S., Hall, E., Wall, K., Woolner, P., McCaughey, C. The Impact of School Environments: A literature review. 2005. London: Design Council. See:


Professor David Leat
Prof of Curriculum Innovation

Dr Pamela Woolner
Senior Lecturer in Education