St John’s RC Primary School

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St John’s RC Primary School was completed in 2018 and is the first in Edinburgh to have the entire school fitted out with flexible, active style furniture.

The front of the school, there is a pavement and grass up to a wall

There was excitement around the new style of learning environments proposed, and when the staff visited Trinity Primary School’s new learning spaces they saw the overwhelming love for the space that the learners and staff had, so they decided to introduce the active environment to their whole school.

Headteacher Barbara, Depute headteacher Jacqueline and Business Manager Sylvia had a vision to create an inspiring space that would accommodate a variety of learning needs and flexible teaching styles.


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The range of furniture can support traditional layouts and active style teaching. Each year group has two different classrooms and adjacent breakout spaces that they will share. This offers the teachers a choice of a formal didactic teaching layout for large project work or an active teaching layout for flexibility and independent working.

In the formal classroom – all large rectangle desks are flip top and mobile so the layout can be changed quickly and easily or cleared of furniture for activities like dance, drama and exercise.

In the active classroom – the space can be used for small or large group work or independent study.

Working together

Each year group will have to work together to share the learning zone and maximise the use of the space. The different furniture and flexible options will offer a variety of opportunities for learners to experience in the different learning environments.

The ambition for the school was to create a forward-thinking school for the future that could offer up new opportunities to change the way that learning and teaching can be delivered using new spaces. Large breakout spaces and flexible walls allow classrooms to be open and for breakout spaces to be used as an extension to the classroom.

Each year group has a room with more rectangular flip top, mobile tables that can be set up traditionally or can be cleared entirely very easily to provide a clear floor space for activities such as performance and, drama and exercise.

In their other classroom are a variety of zones using furnishing like high back sofas, beanbags, high benches and individual tables to create a choice of seating options that can accommodate a range of learning styles, additional support needs and activities.

Working in a flexible shared year group space allows and encourage learners and staff to work together collaboratively, providing the opportunity to work collaboratively and independently.

As many of our mainstream schools have learners with additional support needs and every child has their own learning style, we felt that it was important to try to accommodate the needs of a variety of different users.

A consultation with staff and learners involved discussions about the advantages and challenges in their previous school and provided the opportunity to give ideas for their new school.

There were many requests for items such as soft seating, bean bags, sofas, task chairs, comfortable carpets to sit or lay on the floor, desk to stand at, quiet spaces for concentration and every colour under the rainbow. We tried to incorporate as many of the elements that the learners and staff requested to ensure that we could provide an environment that would suit the mood of the learner, learning style, activity, and group size.

In the breakout space the team wanted to bring the outdoors inside and were inspired from the view of Arthur’s Seat and created through the introduction of trees, nook pods and greenery.

the design was spot on as the two spaces provide the right mix of styles required and the variety of furniture provides an opportunity to always find a space that they feel comfortable to work in.

Even as adults, we can sit in a meeting for several hours at the same chair and start to feel uncomfortable therefore we shouldn’t expect our pupils to sit in one uncomfortable plastic seat at a standard desk for an entire day and still feel engaged in the learning” – Primary 7 teacher, St John’s RC Primary School

The nursery class 

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Layout plans for the classes

P1 classroom

P2 classroom

P3 classroom

P4 classroom

P4 classroom Alternative Layout

P5 classroom

P5 classroom Alternative Layout

P6 classroom

P6 classroom Alternative Layout

P7 classroom

P7 classroom Alternative Layout

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