Future Schools Project Award Competition: Finalists at the Education Buildings Scotland Conference

all of the learners from the finalists pose on stage together with their trophies

At the Education Buildings Scotland Conference 2019 we exhibited the five finalists’ entries for the Future Schools Project Award competition, which aims to promote learners as designers of their own learning environments. This competition was open to all City of Edinburgh Council nurseries and schools. Learners were asked to design a space in their school or nursery that would improve teaching and learning, inclusivity and wellbeing.

The finalists were Broughton High and Corstorphine, St Cuthbert’s, St John Vianney and Murrayburn Primaries. We thought it would be a great idea to have the finalists showcase their submissions at the annual Education Buildings Scotland Conference and have the winner announced on stage. The entries were judged by a panel of seven judges with experience of school projects for the future of learning and the public at the conference were also voting for their favourite which counted toward their final score.

We’re glad to say that we’re now working with our development partner, Hub South East to make the winners’ dream a reality. The City of Edinburgh Council has worked with Hub South East over the last 9 years to create fantastic new learning spaces across Edinburgh and now the winners will have this experienced team and its supply chain help bring their ideas to life as the winning design is taken though a Junior Hub process to develop the ideas from concept through to delivery in their school.

Learner voice is so important

We were delighted when the conference organisers and board members gave us use of an amazing space in the conference hall to display the finalist’s submissions. It was a great space with lots of room, which was needed because there were so many visitors to the stall. The learners from the finalist schools presented their research and designs to the conference attendees who were really enthusiastic to see them.

The professionals that work in building schools were keen to hear what the learners had to say. There was a real buzz around the stall, throughout the conference and internationally on Twitter about the competition.

They all did such an amazing job and spoke well about their research and thoughts behind their designs and were very proactive in pitching their ideas to gain some extra points through the public’s vote.

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney visited the stall and listened to each school present their work to him. The finalists talked through their designs, why they had made the  decisions they had and showed off their video pitches. The Deputy First Minister asked them a lot of questions and they answered really well using the knowledge they had acquired from all of their great research. Once John Swinney had listened to everyone present, he announced the winner on stage alongside HUB South East’s Richard Park.

All of the finalists did amazing research and design work and we’ll showcase it here on our competition page, until the here is a run down of the outcome of the competition:

The winner:

St John Vianney RC Primary School 

Check out St John Vianney’s Primary School video! and their acceptance speech on Twitter

We are a group from Primary 5 at St John Vianney Primary School. Our school is in the Inch on the south side of Edinburgh. Last year when we were in Primary 4 our class decided to enter the Future Schools competition. We have a room called the AV room. Apparently, that stands for ‘audio visual’ room. Once upon a time the room was used for pupils to watch things on the tv, now everybody uses it for everything and uses it in different ways! But the room is old, empty, dull, bland and boring and doesn’t inspire us to learn. We want to create a space that works for everyone. A space that can change and adapt to meet the needs of everyone that uses it. Based on all our research and learning we have now created a design for a room with furniture and storage that can be used in different ways for all the different activities. A room that can be used by individuals, groups or whole classes. We want everyone who uses the room to walk into it and say WOW, this is a fantastic learning and doing space and I want to be here!

Highly Commended:

Murrayburn Primary School

Nine children from Murrayburn primary pose with their trophy alongside Depute First Minister John Swinney, and Richard Park from HUB South East

Check out Murrayburn Primary’s video

“Hi, I’m Sampoorna from Murrayburn Primary School and I will tell you about our idea – The STEAM Room. So, our problem identified in stage 1 was that we didn’t have a space where we could learn actively. A place where nobody would mind about getting all messy. But our school doesn’t have enough money or resources to do this. So we thought of The STEAM Room – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths. The STEAM Room is a place where all types of learning is possible. It is a room for experiments, messy art, dirty science and lots more. Children will be able to learn how to use skills like apply, analyse and evaluate, some of the key things in active learning.”- Sampoorna, age 10

Sampoorna and her Primary 7 classmates have developed their idea from scratch. They have surveyed the whole school and identified active learning, together with STEAM as areas which the children and staff would like to improve.

Corstorphine Primary School

Four children from Corstorphine primary pose with their trophy alongside Depute First Minister John Swinney, and Richard Park from HUB South East

Check out Corstorphine Primary School’s video

We are Corstorphine Primary School and we are dreaming of a classroom where the ceiling is the sky. Our design features an innovative wildlife garden classroom for all children in our school community. Working within the heart of our village, our school thrives when we work together and our entry has been designed in consultation with our children, staff, families and community. Our aim is to connect our children back to nature as a stimulus for discovery, to develop sustainability and take the ceiling off our learning. The sky is the limit!


St Cuthbert’s RC Primary School

Ten children from St Cuthbert's primary pose with their trophy alongside Depute First Minister John Swinney, and Richard Park from HUB South East

Check out St Cuthbert’s Primary School’s video

The St Cuthbert’s Primary School’s team have been working with a lot of enthusiasm for the Future Schools Edinburgh Project Award. We are dreaming of turning our current library from an inefficient multi-purpose room to the heart of our school! The current issues with our library are related to Access, Environment, Inclusivity and differentiation, Resources and space management, Partnership, Teaching and learning. We dream that our library can be transformed to an exciting and inclusive environment in which a plethora of meaningful learning experiences can take place! At St Cuthbert’s we dream of our future school and we work hard together to achieve our goals! We did our very best to turn all our ideas into an effective and flexible design. Helping us bring this design to life will massively improve the learning experiences of all pupils in our school while promoting our design to inspire more schools around Edinburgh and around the world!

Broughton High School

five young people from Broughton High School pose with their trophy alongside Depute First Minister John Swinney, and Richard Park from HUB South East

Check out Broughton High School’s video

We are a team of S3 pupils from Broughton High School, working on behalf of the pupils, the staff and our local community. We have created a sustainable, multi-functional space, bringing the outdoors indoors. Whilst an integral part of our school, emotionally this is a very different space. Our design brings together several initiatives and projects running within our school and offers an entirely different vibe to benefit the pupils, the staff and our local community.

We have strived to build upon the nurture facilities currently provided within our school. We think all pupils should enjoy coming to school and feel a strong sense of belonging. We believe all parents/carers should feel able to engage with our learning environment. We would love to see the school’s enterprising initiative expand to further develop the employability skills of many pupils. We are an important part of our local community, we rely on our local community and we are endeavouring to improve our partnership working through our design.

Spotlight on St John’s RC Primary School

St John's Primary_6

I visited St John’s RC Primary in March to hear how they were finding their new school building, the first primary in Edinburgh to be designed with agile spaces to support active learning.

Headteacher Jackie Kelly talked to me about the great new learning spaces and I was keen to find out from the learners what they thought too.

Since then, the school has inspired the staff and learners of Victoria Primary who have been taking part in engagement sessions to design their new school.

Check out the updated write up of St John’s Primary to find out more.


Future Schools Project Award Workshop

The City of Edinburgh Council logo

Stage 2 of the Future Schools Project Award kicked off with a workshop on Monday 26 August. Our five finalists, Broughton High, St Cuthbert’s Primary, Corstorphine Primary, Murrayburn Primary and St John Vianney’s Primary chose five learners to attend with a teacher. These groups are going to lead the project throughout stage 2 and had been selected for their hard work already on stage 1 of the competition.

The learners arrived with eager anticipation, ready to find out what they had to do for the next stage of the competition. 

We spoke to the finalists about what we were looking for from them in stage 2. For the first part of the competition they told us:

How changing the design of a space in their school or nursery would improve teaching and learning, inclusivity and wellbeing for user(s) they had identified.

More information about stage 1

3 groups of learners chatting to professionals about their designsMaking their solution into a design that works

At the workshop we had a 15 minute info-dash where the schools had 15 minutes each with a professional to get advice about their ideas and how they can make their solution fit the brief for stage 2.

Some of the finalists already had a design solution in mind at stage 1 but after speaking with the experts and understanding the brief for stage 2, they began to re-imagine what they had planned; prioritising certain elements and being creative with their design solutions.

Thank you to our six experts who gave up their time to come and talk through the designs with the finalists. We invited professionals from specific backgrounds to give the schools insight into the areas we are asking them to focus on for their entry.

a group of high school students and their teachers sit around a table talking

Settings for Learning: Lesley Riddell Robertson and David Fletcher from Architecture & Design Scotland. Lesley and David gave advice on how to evaluate the spaces they have, test ideas and plan spaces for new approaches to learning and teaching.




A group of primary school students are writing and talking to a professional

Pedagogy, Learning and Teaching: Janice Watson from CEC Quality Improvement Team. Janice spoke about different ways teachers can teach and learners can learn. Janice gave advice on how they might consider how people will use the environment and how it can improve learning and teaching.


primary children sit around a table full of designs

Interior Design: Lesley McMillan from CEC Interior Design Team. Lesley gave advice on considering how furniture and decoration can help to meet the needs of their project to help to solve the problem they identified. Also how you can use interior design to improve wellbeing and inclusivity.



children sit around a table discussing their design with a professional

Technology: Jenni Robertson from CEC Quality Improvement Team. Jenni gave advice on how they might consider the use of technology in their design, Jenni advised on the practicalities of their ideas and an understanding of what is possible in our schools.




children sit around a table talking about their design

Outdoor spaces: Andrew Bagnall from CEC Outdoor Learning Team. Andrew gave advice on how they can improve learning and teaching in the outdoors. He spoke about practical solutions for creating outdoor spaces that are inclusive and promote wellbeing



children talk to a professional about their design

Communication & Presentation: Neil Maguire,  After the News. Neil gave advice on how to present their submission, focusing on the story they want to tell, clear communication strategies, and considerations when producing their 2-minute film.



The learners brought their submissions from stage 1 to discuss with the experts and were wonderfully engaged and focused on the project and feedback they were getting.

It was a lot of information to take in over two hours and everyone did really well keeping focused and enthusiastic. It was then time for the schools to take a breather, absorb the information, gather their thoughts and discuss what they had learned in their groups. It was also a good opportunity to ask the professionals to join them in their discussions.

Next steps

Now the schools plan to take what they learned in the workshop back to their peers and develop their plans further.

We wish them all the best, the submission deadline is 8th November and the learners will be displaying their submissions at the the Education Buildings Scotland Conference on the 27th November where the winner will be decided.

Keep up to date with the competition by following us on Twitter @futureschoolsed and #futureschoolsprojectaward

Future Schools Project Award stage 1 finalists

We received 14 fabulous entries for Stage 1 of our Future Schools Project Award competition. We have now chosen five finalists that we will work with to focus their ideas in Stage 2 of the competition after the summer holidays. 

A short summary of what we asked for

We asked all City of Edinburgh Council schools and nurseries to tell us a story about how changing the design of a space in your school or nursery would improve teaching and learning, inclusivity and wellbeing for the different people you want to help.

We asked for you to show us:

  • What? The problem you want to solve.
  • Who? The variety of people affected by the problem
  • How? Your solution to the problem through a change in the learning environment or how it’s used. How that solution impacts the people you identified.
  • Why? Your research and reasoning. Look at the judging criteria and the information on this page to see what you should include.

We were also looking for submissions that are creative, well researched, well presented and show collaborative working:

  • How are you going to tell us your story? Be Creative
  •  We want to see the thinking behind your ideas. Research
  • Your research can be part of your story or you can submit it separately. Consider Presentation
  • Only one entry per school or nursery. Work Together

The competition was high. The amount of research, collaboration and information gathering from the entries amazed us. The learners threw themselves into this project and came up with some great ideas. Presentation of the entries was very creative, it was great to see so many different ways of telling your stories and we were glad to see so many entries created by the learners.

There were videos, presentations, a story book, a rap, reports, models, moodboards and lots and lots of drawings!

We have included some images of each of the finalists’ work and will talk with the schools about whether we can share their video entries.

The finalists

Broughton High

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Learners at Broughton High went to incredible depth in their research for their idea of having an environmental outdoor classroom in their school grounds. The purpose is to provide a tranquil, welcoming space that improves well being.

Corstorphine Primary

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Corstorphine Primary are dreaming of an outdoor play space that brings nature into their playground. Their learners, staff and families have been involved in a lot of  well documented research with the aim to meet the needs of all their children with a natural solution to a lack of nature play in their school grounds.

St Cuthbert’s RC Primary

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St Cuthbert’s Primary are focusing on changing their library space which is a multipurpose area, they submitted a short film that showed the learners interviewing what seemed to be everyone in the school. The learners showed how much they had researched and explained to us their findings and ideas for improvements. They showed us how they would meet the needs of the people using the space in their plans.

St John Vianney Primary

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St John Vianney’s Primary chose a room in their school called the AV room which is multipurpose and has to meet many different user needs. They submitted lots of learner designs of the space and a movie created by the learners where they interviewed the different people who use the room to gather ideas for improving the space.

Murrayburn Primary

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Murrayburn Primary are re-imagining an unused space in their school into a practical STEAM room to meet their learners needs for exciting and active learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths. They created an entertaining video where the learners told us all about their aspirations for STEAM and their research into studies about how active learning improves learning outcomes.

Congratulations to all five finalists!

Details of Stage 2 will be announced in June.

stage 1, tell us a story include empathy for people in your story, define the problem and what the people's needs are and then come up with ideas for how to help the people. Five finalists will go on to stage 2 where they will design a learning environment, one winner will get their design created in their school or nursery

lightbulbHats off to all our schools who took part!

Thank you so much to everyone who joined us in the competition, we loved seeing your entries and know how hard you all worked on this.

Unfortunately we can only take five entries to Stage 2 of the competition and it the quality of the submissions made it very difficult to choose only five. If you didn’t get chosen for Stage 2 don’t be discouraged. If you decide to pursue your ideas to make better environments into a reality we would love to share your progress with everyone here on the blog and our Twitter feed @FutureSchoolsEd.

We hope you enjoyed the challenge and learned a lot about your environment and how you can make changes that improve the experience for the people who use it.

Big thanks to Blackhall, Buckstone, Dalry, East Craigs, Flora Stevenson, Gracemount, James Gillespie’s, Sighthill and Stockbridge Primaries for all your hard work!

Here are some snippets of your submissions. 

images from the 9 schools who were not finalists in the competition, there are palettes, models, moodboards, research pages, plans for classrooms, photos and diagrams

the length of the classroom, on the left are groupings of triangular tables and on the right is a high standing workbench with high stools

Spotlight on Trinity Primary

The Pavilion 

The new pavilion building at Trinity Primary School is an agile learning space where three teachers have embraced a new way of working together as a collaborative team.

They teach 74 primary sevens as a year group rather than having them as three separate classes.

Check out what the teachers and pupils think on the Trinity Primary page.

We have much more independence and freedom than our last classroom, you can move anywhere.

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I have learned how important the learning environment is in relation to pupil engagement and enjoyment in learning within an upper primary setting.

Featured: St Margaret’s RC Primary School

The City of Edinburgh Council logo

the general purpose room has different seating areas, a few upturned barrels make work surfaces and are in keeping with the nautical theme, there are rock shaped dividers. The back wall is decorated with the three bridges of Queensferry

We have been working with Karen Ramsay and Lesley McMillan in our interior design team to trial our future classroom ideas at St Margaret’s RC Primary School in South Queensferry.

The staff and pupils at St Margaret’s have been really engaged in designing their own space and thinking about what would help them use their classrooms in the way they want. They have been using their experimental P6 classroom design to inform their research.

The design of the new classrooms has been led by the pupil’s suggestions.

For more information check out the St Margaret’s RC Primary School page.