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Open-plan classrooms versus Classrooms like i remember (that had doors!)?

(21 Posts)
bluegiraffe Fri 07-Jan-11 23:21:07

Hi - in a dilemma over choosing between primary schools for DD. She is described as 'quietly confident' by her nursery school, where she is in a class of about 15 others, mixing regularly with 2 other nursery classes and with older children at after school and holiday clubs. But I'm aware that she holds back in large groups and plays more happily on her own, loves colouring for ages with deep concentration etc.
Her catchment school has open-plan teaching - and over 200 pupils (age Nursery-Yr2); another school we have seen and loved is very small (around 60 pupils R-Y2) but has good results and smaller class sizes in 'proper' classrooms.

My mum 'freaked out' slightly when she learned catchment school is 'open-plan' as she was primary school teacher and taught in both types of school and would never send a child to an open-plan school... hmmm - not what I wanted to hear!! ;-))
Concern is that DD will become more isolated in a noisy/more chaotic/distracting? environment - or will sending her to a small school just compound any shyness issues ..?
All advice welcomed!

emkana Fri 07-Jan-11 23:22:37

Tbh I would never choose an open-plan setting if I could help it. Just can't see it working.

MrsMipp Fri 07-Jan-11 23:51:28

I had a very similar choice and went for the more traditional school with a conventional classroom layout. After realising that I'd made the wrong choice, I've now moved the dc to the open plan school. And, honestly, there's much less disruption. I don't think it's because of the layout. It doesn't matter that much what the layout is. It's how the management/staff handle it that counts.

MrsMipp Fri 07-Jan-11 23:52:16

I had a very similar choice and went for the more traditional school with a conventional classroom layout. After realising that I'd made the wrong choice, I've now moved the dc to the open plan school. And, honestly, there's much less disruption. I don't think it's because of the layout. It doesn't matter that much what the layout is. It's how the management/staff handle it that counts.

lovecheese Sat 08-Jan-11 09:24:08

hmm Can't see the link between noise/chaos and open-plan vs. closed doors; as MrsMipp says what is important is how it is managed.

My own DC's attend a school that has an open-plan arrangement in infants, with two classes per year. Each year group share a central resource area and library but still have their own classroom area with tables and a home bay. I have been in to the building on many occasions over the years during a normal day and have only ever encountered quiet and calm and a work-like environment.

I really would not dismiss a school based on your worries. HTH.

Lamorna Sat 08-Jan-11 09:43:33

All the open plan schools that I know from 1970's build have gradually closed them off.
They can work, it depends on how they are used.

DullWomenHaveImmaculateHomes Sat 08-Jan-11 09:51:28

I agree with MrsMipp and lovecheese. It all comes down to management. The layout of a school doesn't relfect the abilities of the staff.

jaded Sat 08-Jan-11 12:14:39

You know your child best - if you think she would do better in the smaller school then trust your instincts. I think that for the early years a smaller environment would be better but that's only my opinion! My DD was in an open plan classroom last year. She coped but found it noisy and tiring. She has better friendships now she is in one class. After all, how many friends do they really need to choose from? They only need a few at this age.

sarahfreck Sat 08-Jan-11 18:55:29

I taught in a very open plan school for 4 years and it was a real PITA as well as making almost all aspects of teaching much harder. I was newly qualified at the time and so didn't quite realise all the implications of such an open plan space. I did after 4 years though! As a staff we worked really hard to control the noise but I've always wondered if my hearing has been quite as good since that time! Even at it's best it means that children have to learn to tune out more extraneous sound in order to concentrate than they would in a traditional classroom. IMO it makes learning harder for most children but the ones with any kind of special need suffer more than most!

I do think some open plan layouts are better than others and obviously they can be managed in better or worse ways but tbh I'd always prefer to teach in a proper classroom. The kind of open -plan arrangement lovecheese describes doesn't sound too bad so it does depend a bit on HOW open plan it is.

IMO though open-plan layouts are an excuse to save money (you don't have to have such a large internal space or build internal corridor walls/windows) dressed up as fancy educational philosophy. Lamorna is right in that most open plan schools from previous decades have tended to build more walls and close areas off.
I'd definitely prefer any child of mine to be in a traditional classroom as long as the school was of a good standard.
How did you feel about it when you went to look round?

bluegiraffe Sat 08-Jan-11 19:23:41

Thanks for all responses so far.

Still umming and arring but understand reasonings given from both sides. Knowing that some of her current friends are actually applying for our catchment school even though it's out of their catchment isn't helping matters, as worried she will know nobody at her new school - her current nursery friends are either staying put at the independent (our dream!) or going to their catchment school, which isn't ours.

sarahfreck: you echo what my mum's said pretty much - we have looked round the school twice now, both times with DD. Second time we saw the new 'classrooms' they've had put up - described as being able to open up or have as 3 classrooms - except that the dividers only come half way across - so that to me doesn't make 3 classrooms! This will be for two reception classes shared with one nursery class (when it's in the 3 'classroom' format) - the other reception class will be in main school building - although they chop and change around to make it fair ...
the main school building I summed up as feeling 'cluttered' - lots going on, but no room to really do it all without it just looking messy!
on the plus side the teachers all came across well - very positive, pupils polite and attentive - the headteacher is very enthusiastic!!! almost 'high' but we liked her.
the smaller school have just got a new head -but she comes from another good school and they seemed to handle the changeover well - we will meet her next week.
Regarding noise levels - surprisingly when we viewed the out of catchment school where DD's nursery friends will mainly go - they had normal classrooms but the noise levels were horrendous - comparing it to DD's nursery class - really shocked us!

So, still sleeping on it - there is a third possible choice too - 'proper' classrooms - again fairly small, but goes 4-11, but that's outside catchment in a different county (although still only 3 miles away) ... just to complicate matters! ;-))

TheMonster Sat 08-Jan-11 19:25:25

As a teacher, I would never want to work in an open plan school, and as a parent, I wouldn't send my child to one.

jaded Tue 11-Jan-11 22:20:31

Can the teachers who have responded to this thread tell me why schools choose to have open plan classrooms? what are the benefits? How can I persuade my Head that open plan for nursery and reception is not in the children's best interests? Is it some Ofsted fad? And are there any teachers who really enjoy teaching in open plan? Surely they can see the drawbacks

marmum Tue 11-Jan-11 22:38:14

As others have said, open-plan classrooms can be a nightmare for noise, but so can old Victorian schools with their appalling acoustics. It really depends on the layout of the school, so go and have a look and decide if the plan is too open for you. If the other school is a Victorian school be aware that although closed, it could be just as noisy and difficult to hear. It really is best for you to go and see them.

Malaleuca Wed 12-Jan-11 00:51:01

I also agree with your mum!
Open plan classrooms were a fad of the 70s and went along with discovery learning, mixed age groups, whole language, and probablay were cheaper to build as well. I also know schools which after a few years spent large sums on recreating smaller spaces.
I wouldn't make assumptions about the teaching from the architecture but large spaces and numbers of children can be noisy and distracting, but then so can children in a smaller classroom space!

jaded Wed 12-Jan-11 10:54:56

Malaleuca - what is 'discovery learning'?
Bluegiraffe - is the open plan for just reception or year one as well?

Lonnie Wed 12-Jan-11 11:02:44

I went to an open plan school (I am 40) it now has no open class rooms it was found to not work well I would agree with your mum

bluegiraffe Wed 12-Jan-11 14:24:35

Hi Jaded
It is open plan for Reception and Yr1 and then they have classrooms for Yr2.
Reception classes (of which there are 3) spend half their time approx in 'open plan' with Nursery - i.e. in a new building with 2 screens that come only half way across - so 'free-flow' happens! ...
The other half of time they are in open-plan areas of main school where Yr1 areas are also.

katiestar Wed 12-Jan-11 17:28:42

IME noisy and, to some kids, very distracting

kattyo Wed 12-Jan-11 19:25:24

I went to an open plan primary school. I remember drifting aimlessly from room to room (it had an open plan teaching philosophy as well - no one taught us how to do maths, I don't actually remember being taught how to do anything...). I didn't like it much, but on the other hand when i look round traditional primary schools they seem terrifyingly formal (I went to a v. academic secondary school and hated that as well - so it could be I just hated school?).

jaded Wed 12-Jan-11 19:42:36

Hi bluegiraffe.
If it was just open plan for reception then I would say try it out but year one as well? WHY???? And as it is three classes that really is A LOT of children. Do you have a chance of getting your daughter into the smaller school? My DD is now in year one (just one class) but my DS is not going to her school's nursery as it is free flow.
Good luck.

bluegiraffe Wed 12-Jan-11 21:25:51

Thanks Jaded - well i've done the application now - put our two preferred schools first - both 'proper' classrooms, both smaller, both outside catchment, first choice oversubscribed but not so completely from catchment so a slim chance depending on categorisation of the applicants this year .... second choice regularly takes out of catchment as tiny village/rural catchment and we are within the bounds of the last place offered last year ... so, in with a chance!! Open-plan is our only designated school so have to put it down, can't risk not doing - and accept it's the most likely to be offered, but will go the waiting list route if necessary.
Will try not to stress for the next 3 months now!

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