Middle schools (General teaching areas, Specialist spaces)


Middle schools


Schools for the 8-12 and 9-13 agemranges were popular during the 1970s but since the introduction of the National Curriculum new middle schools are extremely rare. They are intended to extend the teaching methods and atmosphere of primary schools, while practical activities are backed by more sophisticated equipment and specialised spaces, as might be found in secondary schools. Eleven- and 12-year-olds in middle schools are taught the same curriculum as their contemporaries in secondary schools.

As middle schools accommodate work at both KS2 and KS3, the gross area range is determined by a proportion that reflects an allowance for the number of pupils in each Key Stage. Thus, a school for 9- to 13-year-olds is likely to be larger than one for the same number of 8- to 12-year-olds.


1 Bubble diagram showing a possible arrangement of spaces and activities in a 2FE 8-1 2 or 9-1 3 middle school 



General teaching areas 

The usual format for middle schools is a number of class bases with shared practical areas and/or specialist rooms. In 8-12 schools the mix of spaces is generally akin to that found in primary schools, whereas 9-13 schools are more like secondary schools. Much of the general, class-based work of the 8-12 curriculum can take place in self-contained classrooms, with access to water and some space for practical and investigation work, and pairs of semi- open bases, sharing a small enclosed group room. However, the 9-13 curriculum requires greater use of specialised rooms for certain subjects (science, design and technology, art) which may be used solely by older pupils or may be shared by the whole school. 


Specialist spaces 

The school hall will not always be appropriate or available for music, so ideally a smaller, acoustically isolated space should be provided which has an uncommitted floor space. Design and technology (and sometimes 3D art) work tends to produce dust and/or noise and should also be isolated from other activities. A workshop space for older pupils should be laid out for work in wood, metal and plastics but may have a less sophisticated range of equipment than in secondary schools. Adequate storage and secure preparation space will be needed near the design and technology space. 

One approach to specialist areas for 8-12 middle schools is the provision of ‘nucleus’ areas, which can be closed off when not needed, adjacent to general teaching spaces. For example, for pupils up to the age of 12, many science activities are compatible with the use of general teaching areas but there are times when the work of the older children involves simple chemical experiments which need a laboratory setting. A nucleus area with gas, electricity and laboratory sinks could provide suitable facilities for a small group of pupils to experiment at one time.

This nucleus area should open into a work room for a class group, equipped with extra power points, a large sink and tables and worktops suitable for science but capable of flexible arrangement for other work. Separate storage and serviced science trolleys for demonstration should be provided to enable science to be taught anywhere in the school. In 9-13 schools a fully equipped laboratory and associated preparation room, as might be found in a secondary school, is required for older pupils to undertake practical science experiments.

Provision for learning to prepare and cook food in each type of middle school should follow similar lines to that for science, described above, with a nucleus area in 8-12 middle schools and a fully equipped food room in 9-13 schools.

Layouts of the work tables and equipment to be used in the specialist provision (whether nucleus areas or rooms) for music, design and technology, food and science are the best indicators of the space required (see ‘Furniture and equipment’ above).

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