SEN School design in COVID era

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Zane Putne

Senior Architect, Zane Putne

Alongside the lockdown restrictions continue to ease and pupils have started to return to schools, Noviun Architects in collaboration with Rama Venchard, Hoare Lea and Kier Construction, hosted a webinar to hypothesise about “how SEN school designs can adapt to the new post Covid Era”.

The webinar explored the issues that the special educational needs (SEN) schools have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic. The last year has not only challenged pupils who may have digressed in their learning, but also their families with a disrupted routine that has caused further anxiety and mental health issues.

SEN School design in COVID era

SEN School design in COVID era

A recent BBC survey (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/nfpahaz8or/newsround-survey) indicated that 45% of the children noted feeling unhappy about not being in school, with almost half of correspondents noting feeling worse than usual. Whilst these statistics are based on overall school population and not concentrated on special needs, we can only imagine the situation in SEN being much worse.

What is recommended for mainstream schools, may not be suitable for SEN. Items such as face masks and rapid flow testing, which are considered solutions within mainstream education, are virtually impossible to implement within the special needs environment as basic measures of protection.

Much like adults are experiencing with the return to everyday society, the return to school can cause anxiety. Most are looking forward to some form of return to the new normal but understanding the impact of change throughout the last year on some of the most vulnerable of society will be critical in approaching our future living and learning environments.

Daventry Hill School 05

We believe the transition from home to school should be made as smooth as possible, with pupils eased back into their dedicated learning environment. The whole school campus plays a crucial part in this, including relationship between internal and external environments. Having engaging and inspiring external spaces can aide in relieving the anxiety, especially if there are views from teaching areas to landscape. Nature is an ever-important part of SEN schools. Where the sites are limited or constrained, there are opportunities to bring the nature inside through biophilic design or more simple solutions. However, going forwards and considering the response to the climate emergency, it is imperative to get the basics right: aspect, orientation, form etc. to maximise the use of light, ventilation, spaces, and transition between areas.

It is our opinion that collaboration between the whole project team with common goals and drivers achieves the best results. The whole project team extends beyond the design team and contractor, we believe that engaging closely with the end user trust or school is imperative to creating an environment that not only responds to the needs of the current cohort, but ensures the flexibility to provide the highest quality space for future generations.

If you missed it and would be interested in watching the webinar, please see the link: https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_YTU5YTgzOTItMDVmZi00MDk5LWEyNGEtMTJiMmJkZmQ5Njhk%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%22d8de327a-9836-443f-8bbc-a1c10ff08dc0%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%2257937501-4312-4e91-b73c-be2337a659f9%22%2c%22IsBroadcastMeeting%22%3atrue%7d&btype=a&role=a

If you have any further questions, please feel free to get in touch with us and we would be happy to assist you. For more information surrounding our SEN experience please visit our dedicated SEN page.