Open plan - good, bad or ugly?(22 Posts)
Has anyone experience of open plan school rooms and how they affect reception class children, either positively or negatively?
Only from a personal point of view in that I went to a brand new open plan school for last year of primary and it was ghastly.
I would avoid!
Some children find the average Reception class room distracting, if they have any extra noise or movement from other classes/year groups it must be overwhelming.
If it is just a reception area where they can freely move between areas or even outside; if there is enough staff it can work fine.
DD's old school was open plan. One area contained 2 REception classes (with curtained off alcoves for each class). The other area contained 4 KS1 classes (with curtained off alcoves).
Positives were (in Reception) that the 2 classes mixed freely so more options for friendship groups, and were able to access a greater variety of activities. It did seem very noisy but I never got the impression (used to go in as a volunteer reader) that this bothered the children. When DD started there I thought the open plan would be a bad thing, but actually with well managed use of space it did open up opportunities that you wouldn't have in traditional classrooms.
We have a 3 class intake. Our reception rooms all have those concertina type door things to close them off. In actual fact, the children are very rarely working 'as a class'. They either play all together (mostly outside) and are allowed in different classrooms to do whatever activity they want OR they are working in small groups within their class. I think the class is only all together just before they go home for a story. I think you need to figure out how it works in practise.
Reception is pretty chaotic anyway. I think for me, the open plan may show an interest in being more creative-thinking etc. How does this spread to other aspects of the school?
When dd1 was in reception they had two classes in the same room, with areas sectioned off by filing cabinets to make two class areas (for things like phonics). It worked pretty well.
Dd2 is now in reception but the intake has increased to 3 classes. They're now all in one building with one class in what used to be a parents area. It's definitely not as good - I don't feel they really get that 'classroom' feel and it does seem quite cramped. (It is just for this year though as they're waiting for a new building to be built). It also means there's no opportunity to have sessions where parents can attend (as they did with DD1) as there just isn't enough room imo.
They also do phonics cross-class in groups (which continues throughout the school) so the class-time is fairly minimal.
I know of someone who taught in a new school that had been produced open plan. During the first summer holidays, when they'd been open a year they got buidlers in to create walls and barriers to change it away from beign open plan as much as possible.
She arrived very enthusiastic about the open plan, by the end of the year she was desperate not to be open plan-in fact she would have left if they hadn't decided to change it.
Open plan if there are spaces to withdraw groups to for carpet time input can be great in year groups like reception where you can share areas like sand and role play and make them much more spectacular than they would be in one small classroom... open plan can also be utter bloody shit if badly done. Where I've seen it work well is when there are class carpet time "bays" that can curtain off if needed, and then larger shared areas to go away and do work in or whatever - I've seen it almost go into a whole year group team teaching situation further up the school like that. Unfortunately often it's not like that at all and you have teachers trying desperately to "zone" areas with random collections of furniture and dust gathering drapes stuck to the ceiling tiles... and if you have kids with behavioural issues prone to storming out of class and going for a wander - it's a total pain in the arse as they pick random groups around the school to join in with (invariably mine!)
I used to have the remaining open plan area in a school where they'd put walls up all over the place in an original open plan building (I remain convinced someone had got pissed and done this randomly with three bottles of wine, the school plan and a ruler as it was utterly bizarrely laid out) and it was hell on earth to teach in - constant lines of kids going to and from PE and whatever going through, the toilets in the corner of the teaching area (thus every child in the school regarded me as some kind of Keeper of the School Toilets and told me about a bit of loo roll on the floor mid-lesson input), every one of our resident "wanderers" coming and joining in my lessons and causing chaos... absolute fucking pain in the arse and shit environment to teach and learn in. On top of which you couldn't get any work done on an evening either without shoving a walkman in your ears as the cleaners all congregated to talk about Ethel down the road's piles and net curtains.
Oh and no walls to stick display work or things like key words etc on. Only so much you can dangle from the ceiling before the caretaker gets pissed off.
I HATE open plan (if you hadn't guessed)
Ugh, I feared as much. As we were looking around I couldn't hear what was being said because of the background din. How on earth the poor kids are supposed to concentrate is beyond me, but I wasn't sure if I am an isolated case. It seems to be the current trend in schools and I am weighing up whether it is better to apply out of catchment rather than to the closest more convenient option.
Do the kids get used to it at all?
Is it just reception or all the way through. If just YR, I wouldn't sweat it. They don't need to concentrate. They are mostly playing.
My DCs primary has classrooms which can be linked, so they can do whole year work, have whole year assemblies etc. This works really well.
The infant school also had each of the two year class rooms in each year linked by a shared space. But there was enough distance to provide a barrier to noise/wandering pupils.
I don't know any really recent schools built like that, for that age group. My DS's senior school does have a large open plan area, but it is for private study, not really class teaching.
Maybe it depends on the school size. Dd's school is 1 form entry, and p1-3 are in one section, 4-6 in another, and 7 tucked away at the end. There are dividing panels between the classes, and each section has a stairwell in the middle. They also all each have a quiet room, where they can do stuff without being disturbed or disturbing the other classes. I love it. There's a gentle buzz of noise but the children are aware of the other classes, and so used to moderating their noise, the teachers work together well, and the headmistress can stop and chat to the children as she goes through the school.
I can see that in some circumstances it would be awful, and couldn't see how it would work, but I've been getting work experience there for a year now, and think it's brilliant.
Awful for children on the autistic spectrum, or with similar sensitivities. It's the main reason why ds didn't go to our catchment school but to a tiny traditional primary in the next village.
As a pp poster said, primary classrooms are crazy and noisy enough for a sensitive child, without introducing open plan, too.
Not for us, but I'm sure that done well it suits some children.
DD was in an open plan reception class of 90 kids (bulge year). It was the first year that the school had done this previously the 2 reception classes were in their own classrooms.
I was a tad nervous about it (especially about the bulge class) but it worked out brilliantly. The staff ratio was still the same (so 3 teachers and 3 TAs) and each child still had a class "teacher" for things like parents Eve's etc although the whole 90 kids were mixed up for lessons (phonics etc) and taught with kids at the same ability as them.
It was very free flow, lots to do etc (classroom was massive) and the few times I did go into the classroom ( numeracy workshops etc) it was never too loud.
She is in yr1 now and all in all her reception year was brilliant.
There was a child on the autistic spectrum at dd's school up until last year, Hmm, and he thrived there. But, as I said, it's a small school, and not that chaotic, and a really brilliant school, so maybe no the norm.
DD's school has this, with two reception and two nursery classes. It works brilliantly.
She is very shy (possible selective mutism) and has come out of her shell like you wouldn't believe since starting at the nursery last September. She is now in reception. She has learned loads, social skills have developed phenomenally and I really think the free flow classrooms (with free flow to outside) develop their choice-making and independent learning skills, which in turn develops their confidence.
It is four classrooms knocked through rather than one big purpose built room, so lots of nooks and crannies to play and do quieter activities in.
They have quiet carpet time in each zone.
When it works, it works very well- on the whole, I am very much in favour of it.
My daughter's school has this, and it's one of the reasons we chose the school, she really likes it (only just started reception) and seems to be doing well.
DD's reception class was like this- open plan with 2 reception classes and 1 nursery class. It worked brilliantly, there were still 3 distinct classes and they each had their own area, but during 'active learning' it was all free flow, with a huge outside area. DD absolutely thrived in it, only downside is she now thinks her y1 classroom is too small!
DS's school has 2 reception classes with concertina doors that are usually open but as most of their work is in groups, I'm not sure it makes a huge difference. They are properly shut off from the other classes and no other years have this arrangement.
While they are still learning through play I am quite happy with it.
I went to a completely open plan primary. 32 years later I can still remember the noise coming from other classrooms when we were trying to work. I wouldn't have chosen one for my DCs.
I went to an open plan junior school and loved it. But the classrooms were well designed with home corners at opposite ends and coat/storage areas providing natural divides. It's not an open plan school any more funnily enough! I've done supply teaching in an open plan infants and that works well too. But their planning used the shared areas as the home class areas were too small for 30 children to sit at tables.
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