Secondary school (Staff accommodation, Timetabled teaching areas, Practical spaces, Information technology)


Secondary school


Staff accommodation

In a typical secondary school today, staff accommodation will include offices for senior teaching staff, some small, local departmental staff work rooms and a central staff room providing work space for the remaining staff and a social area for all teaching staff who wish to use it. The main staff room should preferably be secluded from noisier parts of the school, but centrally located. 

Timetabled teaching areas 

The secondary school curriculum is normally taught in distinct subjects, using a variety of timetabled teaching rooms which tend to be used predominantly for one subject. Almost half the subjects taught in secondary schools are ‘general teaching’, normally only requiring standard classrooms. These subjects include English, mathematics, modern foreign languages (MFL), humanities (history and geography), religious education, personal and social education (PSE) and general studies.

The remainder usually require specialist spaces  which are less likely to be interchangeable, although art and graphics or music and drama may share spaces. IT rooms will be required as a timetabled and bookable resource for most subjects, particularly business studies, GNVQ, MFL, humanities and design and technology. 
1- Bubble diagram showing possible arrangement of spaces and activities in an 11-16 (11-18) secondary school (design and technology includes multi-materials, pneumatics, electronic and control technology (PECT), textiles, food and graphics) 


Size, shape and layout The size, shape and layout of individual teaching rooms should provide a space which has the flexibility to accommodate a broad range of activities. Keeping fixed furniture and equipment to the perimeter and loose furniture to the centre is recommended.

A space which is too narrow may restrict the range of activities and the possible furniture layouts (see pp 40-41), particularly in practical spaces where there may be large items of equipment with minimum space requirements between them (BB81, Appendix 1).

Good sight-lines are essential and a variety of furniture and equipment will need to fit in the room. The likely required sizes of each room type will depend on the activities accommodated and the maximum group size. Ranges are given in BB82. The size of spaces will also be affected by the extent to which storage and resources such as IT are within the room-or in shared areas nearby. Ideally, all teaching spaces should be serviced for the use of computers and audio-visual teaching aids.

2- Typical schedule of spaces for an 1 1-1 6 secondary school 


General teaching classrooms These accom- modate a range of activities which include whole- class teaching and small group discussion, reading, writing, role-playing, and can include the use of computers and audio-visual equipment. There may also be some other activities, such as model making (e.g. in geography or mathematics) so it is therefore desirable to provide one large classroom for every four or five of ‘standard’ size. General teaching rooms tend to be used for more than one subject to allow a high frequency of use (90%), although they are likely to be used primarily for a single subject so that display and storage can be relevant. 

Untimetabled supplementary teaching areas These may be required in suites of general teaching accommodation: for instance, a room for use by a foreign language assistant to work with small groups or for careers advice. Small clusters of computers may be in a shared area rather than in the class. 

Practical spaces

Practically based subjects require a range of specialist teaching spaces. These include science, design and technology, art, music, drama and PE. Business studies and vocational courses, such as GNVQs may benefit from access to practical rooms, and will need ready access to information communications technology (ICT).

Science Generally, science needs to be taught in laboratories, equipped with sinks, gas taps and suitable worktops (see BB80). Central preparation rooms serving a number of general laboratories are economic and offer flexibility.

Design and technology This requires a variety of specialist spaces, depending on the course chosen (see BB81). They are likely to be used at a lower frequency level (7040%) than other spaces as, for instance, food-related courses cannot be taught in a workshop. The range of timetabled spaces will include:
Multi-materials workshops for designing and making in various ‘resistant’ materials such as wood, metal and plastic
Pneumatics, electronics and control technology (PECT) areas, including lighter technologies and perhaps CAD-CAM machines
Textiles, as taught in technology, including sewing machines, knitting machines and fabric testing equipment
Food room, including sinks, cookers, fridge/freezer and other kitchen equipment, with suitable worktops and hygienic finishes for preparing food
A graphics room, which may be included in the suite if the curriculum demands it.

As in any other subjects, ICT will’ need to be accessed. Untimetabled areas may include a heat- treatment bay, usually part of a workshop, and a sixth form project area.

Art Specialist spaces are required to accommodate activities such as drawing, painting, ‘wet textiles’ (screen printing and batik) or 3D work (sculpture, pottery, construction). Each room is likely to reflect a particular range of specialist activities (see BB89).

Music A music classroom is needed, and perhaps a larger recital room (see BB86). Untimetabled spaces will include around four small group/practice rooms for every music room (for peripatetic teaching and small group work). A recording studio or control room can also be useful.

Drama Although it can be taught in a large classroom or in a shared music room, this is best accommodated in a drama studio. Performances will require a larger area, or use of the main assembly hall, with appropriate stage lighting and blackout facilities. Fire exits and emergency lighting should be sufficient for evening performances to the public. 

PE Physical education requires a gymnasium and a sports hall, as well as various outdoor facilities, including hard courts and grassed pitches (discussed earlier). Although a sports hall is usually more than twice the size of a gymnasium, it is unlikely that it will be timetabled for two groups for more than half the time available. If the sports hall is to be used for competitions or public use, Sports Council recommended dimensions should be used, adding further area (see the Sports Facilities section).

Information technology

The use of information technology (IT) in schools has increased significantly in recent years. Government IT initiatives (such as the National Grid for Learning), combined with the falling cost of equipment, mean that this trend is likely to continue and even accelerate in the future. This has emphasised the need for careful planning and flexibility to cope with future advances. If computers are to be networked across the school, a safe and secure area (an IT technician’s room) will be needed to house the network file server(s).

IT facilities may be available in each classroom or equipment may be located in dedicated IT areas, but, more commonly, secondary schools have a mixture of IT resource areas - smaller departmental clusters and individual machines in certain classrooms. Any local untimetabled IT resource areas should be positioned centrally to the area they serve and should be accessible, but secure at all times. Internal glazing allows easy supervision from adjacent spaces.

Environmental conditions Glare and reflections on screens are the most common lighting problems in IT areas. For the best lighting conditions, blinds may be needed to control daylight and direct sunlight, and reflective surfaces should be avoided on the floor, walls and furniture. Computers should be placed with monitors at right angles to the windows and parallel to the light fittings. North- facing rooms will normally provide the best environmental conditions for IT use. A room full of computers and pupils can also give off a lot of heat, which should be controlled naturally. When in use the temperature in an IT room should ideally be between 18°C and 24”C, with humidity between 40% and 60%.

Room size and furniture layout (See 3) Pupils must have space to work comfortably at the workstation. There should be at least 850mm of clear space in front of the computer table (1200mm between back-to-back tables). Several pupils should be able to gather around at least one machine or be able to see a large monitor, for demonstrations. The arrangement of computers in a room will affect the activities that can be carried out. At each IT workstation a pupil should be able to sit so that their eye-line is level with the top of the monitor. The ideal dimensions of furniture for different age groups are listed in the A&B leaflet Making IT Fit (1995). In most secondary schools, one size of table is used by the entire age range but using adjustable chairs allows each pupil to individually adjust their position to the correct eye level. A useful size for a standard work surface is 750xl500mm because it enables two children to work comfortably together.

3- Generic layout of an IT room for 28 pupils 


A ‘perimeter’ arrangement allows pupils to work at computers, with power taken straight off the perimeter trunking, or at tables in the middle of the room. However, glare and reflections can cause problems if the computer screens are parallel to the windows. The ‘peninsular’ layout (see 26) allows the centre of the room to be used more effectively, and can give more space next to each computer for written work. Services are channelled through the furniture from perimeter outlets. There are fewer problems with glare as all the computers are positioned at right angles to the windows. An ‘island’ layout is good for group work and can also give a less formal feel but it can be inflexible if the service outlets or furniture are fixed.

POST- 1 6

An increasing number of 16- to 19-year-olds are continuing to study at school. Sixth form courses are usually predominantly general teaching subjects, with business studies or similar GNVQs and sciences as the main specialist subjects. Other vocational subjects, art, music and other practical courses may also be taught, but these are likely to be in small groups, generally occupying existing (and otherwise under-utilised) practical spaces. Around 20-30% of a sixth former’s school time will be spent in private or self-supported study. Depending on the school and student, this may be done in a study area, the library, social areas, IT spaces, at home or in specialist spaces such as art studios, where a sixth form project area may be available for untimetabled work and long-term work or experiments. Extra area for sixth forms in schools (which can be added to the schedule of spaces for an 11-16 school (see 2) mav therefore include:
       General teaching rooms (generally smaller than standard classrooms, to suit the smaller group sizes) business studies/GNVQ room(s).
       IT rooms and IT clusters for smaller groups science laboratories (suitable for specialist study of chemistry, biology and physics).
       Practical areas for vocational courses, such as engineering, if necessary.
       Specialist supplementary teaching areas, such as a dark room or project areas for art or design and technology.
       Self-study area and/or extra library resource area to accommodate around 25% of the sixth form at any one time.
       Common room/social area, comfortably accommo- dating about 25% of the sixth form non-teaching areas, such as head of sixth form’s office, toilets, extra catering facilities and stores.

In some cases general teaching, business/GNVQ, IT and science rooms may be used-by all age groups.-The common room, study area and library resource may be linked or separate, depending on the school, to offer shared resources but a choice of quiet or more lively working areas. Sixth form groups are tending to increase in size, so science labs and IT rooms are likely to be the same size as those for 11-16 pupils, but with a larger work area per pupil.

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