St Margaret’s RC Primary School

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

The staff and learners 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.

  • A boy and girl sitting in the hexagonal nooks
  • The Fingals classroom is full of natural daylight. There are different shaped hexagons on the rear wall. three small ones for display, two medium ones with green and blue upholstered interiors for sitting in and one large one used as a cloakroom. There are three tables that can be split into individual tables. Some are write on surfaces and some are wood. there is a mixture of chairs on wheels with foot rests and higher chairs with fidget bars
  • A close up of the hexagons on the wall. three small ones for display, two medium ones with green and blue upholstered interiors for sitting in and one large one used as a cloakroom. There is a big window to see into the breakout area which has a hexagon graphic on it that represents the stones of Fingals cave.
  • A close up of the storage units on the wall. there are four hexagon shaped wooden shelves, two have plants inside, one has a small chest of drawers and the other has two cuddly toys.
  • The Forth Sea classroom with lots of natural daylight, wood style flooring and white walls. The furniture is a mixture of natural wood tones. a wicker teacher chair in front of a Smart board, a couple of wicker baskets against the wall and an owl shaped wicker storage basket. In front of the chair is a circular rug surrounded by four wicker seat pads, two floor rocking seats and a traditional rocking chair. there are four hexagon shaped wooden shelves, two have plants inside, one has a small chest of drawers and the other has two cuddly toys. There are fairy lights hanging from the wall above the Smart board. A standing teachers desk is next to the Smart board in front of two cupboards.
  • A close up of the different seating options on the rug, three wicker seat pads, two floor rocking seats, a traditional rocking chair and a blue upholstered seat cube
  • A close up of a wicker teacher chair in front of a Smart board, a couple of wicker baskets against the wall and an owl shaped wicker storage basket. In front of the chair is a circular rug with a blue bean bag and wicker seat pad.
  • a boy works at the construction bench
  • A white walled classroom with one wall covered in beige pin boarding fabric beside a white board. There is a U shaped table with a teacher chair on one side and four upholstered seating cubes in shades of green on the other side. There is a green sofa in the corner beside a small wicker nook. There are wooden storage units at low level along the back wall. A table with two wobble stools and a standard chair is to the right. There is a quote on the wall "you're braver than you be believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think" by A.A. Milne above a glass screen door that allows to see through into the next classroom.
  • A white walled classroom with one wall covered in beige pin boarding fabric beside a white board. There is a U shaped table with a teacher chair on one side and four upholstered seating cubes in shades of green on the other side. There is a green sofa in the corner beside a small wicker nook. There are wooden storage units at low level along the back wall. A table with two wobble stools and a standard chair is to the right.
  • The sink area is recessed into a shape like a house, painted dark blue inside. On the wall over a circular nook it says "All stars are different, you are one of them!" there is a tree covered in fairy lights next to the nook. In the centre of the room there is a selection of yellow and blue upholstered seat cubes and wicker seat pads scattered around an upturned barrel. There are three acoustic dividers shaped like stones. There is a wooden boat shape with two upturned barrels inside and cushions for sitting in.
  • A boy and girl sit in the circular nook and read
  • On the wall over a circular nook it says "All stars are different, you are one of them!" there is a tree covered in fairy lights next to the nook. Fairy lights are dangled along a grey wall. There is a pink dolls house beside some bookshelves, a plant and a floor lamp stand either side of a sofa with cushions. A blue rocking chair and other seats surround a coffee table. There is a low table made from a slice of tree trunk.
  • The cloakroom is shaped as a house, painted gold inside with coats and bags hanging on hooks and shoe storage beneath. on the walls is a graphic of the three Forth bridges. In the centre of the room there is a selection of yellow and blue upholstered seat cubes, beanbags and wicker seat pads scattered around three upturned barrels. Two wooden boat shaped benches for sitting. There are three acoustic dividers shaped like stones. There is a large white table with a bench at the rear of the room.
  • children sitting on cube stools
  • The sink area is recessed into a shape like a house, painted dark blue inside. On the wall over a circular nook it says "All stars are different, you are one of them!" there is a tree covered in fairy lights next to the nook. In the centre of the room there is a selection of yellow and blue upholstered seat cubes and wicker seat pads scattered around an upturned barrel. There are three acoustic dividers shaped like stones. On the wall above the classrooms are two saying "St Margaret inspire us!" and "teamwork makes the dream work". There is a large white table with a bench at the rear of the room.
  • children writing at a fun boat shaped seat and desk
  • The sink area is recessed into a shape like a house, painted dark blue inside. On the wall above the classroom is a saying "teamwork makes the dream work". There is a large white table with a bench in the centre of the room. The door to the classroom has a big window to see in and out of the class, the window has graphics of a boat, fish and seagulls
  • a girl works at the circular table and a boy kneels at a standing desk
  • The cloakroom is shaped as a house, painted gold inside with coats and bags hanging on hooks and shoe storage beneath. on the walls is a graphic of two of the three Forth bridges. The door to the classroom has a big window to see in and out of the class
  • Four girls sit with their backs to us, working at a large white table, three of them are kneeling on the bench.
  • The Forth Sea classroom with lots of natural daylight, wood style flooring and white walls. The furniture is a mixture of natural wood tones and blue fabric. There are cushions, seat pads and upholstered cubes on the floor to sit on, a comfortable booth against the wall and a table with chairs in the background.
  • a girl reads sitting on a high backed sofa

The design of the new classrooms has been led by the learner’s suggestions and we have asked staff and learners to complete a questionnaire about their previous space with a plan to compare it with their views on their new space a year later in May 2019.

See the learners’ research and ideas

During the consultation with learners some ideas were coming up multiple times or along similar themes. Wanting to represent a sense of identity for the school was raised and design suggestions around the sea, fish, boats and coral reefs. Blue was also a favourite colour, this together with the importance of school’s identity with St Margaret and their local area inspired a design centred on the story of Saint Margaret’s journey to South Queensferry.

See the mood board for the ideas around the St Margaret

See the mood board about identity with South Queensferry

See the mood board showing ideas for identifying with the sea

See the mood board about the ideas for the interior

With the inspiration of the story of St Margaret and representations from the local area each classroom was given it’s own theme.

  • St Margaret’s cave has been represented in the general purpose room as a library area
  • the Forth Sea and Fingals cave classes represent her journey across the sea
  • The boat in the general purpose space represents the shipwreck on the journey
  • The Shell Bed and Ferry Glen classes represent the land and identify with local areas 

The classrooms were given new names to represent these places and to promote collaborative working between classes without labelling classes by stage. 

See the ideas from the learners and how that has inspired the design

See the plan of the new classrooms

Here are some photos of the learning environments before and after the refurbishment.

General purpose room before and after

The general purpose space was cluttered and didn’t work well as a break out area. The new space has been cleared and well defined activity zones have been introduced with flexibility for the staff and learners to move the furniture around as their requirements change. A collaborative learning boat makes a fun place for the children to learn and the nooks are a great place for independent working.

  • the general purpose space has a boat to sit in and a large collaborative work bench
  • nooks and collaborative spaces, lots of different choices
  • A rustic table with a compass image on the top
  • the general purpose room has a library corner which is like a living room, a circular nook is against the wall for a child to sit in, a sofa and rocking chair are beside a coffee table and a lamp and plant create a homely look
  • 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
  • a house shaped meeting space on wheels, there are two benches facing each other over a table and gives a little privacy
  • the general purpose room is bright and airy, there is a wooden boat to sit at with cushions and wicker seat pads, the cloakrooms are golden and house shaped recessing into the wall. there is a tree with fairy lights

Ferry Glen classroom before and after

The Ferry Glen classroom is currently being used by primary one. Many of the furnishings are inspired by the new Edinburgh nursery class designs with an aim to ease the transition between nursery and primary.

  • the ferry glen classroom has a half circle teaching table, a divider that has holes in it to see through, a cozy corner and a rectangular teaching table and inspirational quote on the wall
  • the teacher has a comfy wicker chair beside the whiteboard, the children sit on a rug
  • a teaching table
  • natural decoration like branches
  • The woodland illustration on the Ferry Glen classroom sliding door
  • The woodland illustration on the Ferry Glen classroom window
  • a cozy corner

The Ferry Glen is a natural wooded pathway that is nearby the school. Taking inspiration from this the classroom features the natural colours of greens and wooden furnishings.

Shell Beds classroom before and after

The Shell Beds classroom is currently being used by primary two and three as a team teaching class. The Shell Beds is a local beach and the room has been given a seaside theme.

  • individual triangle shaped tables fit together to make a big table
  • cozy teaching area
  • a dress up area with dividers
  • shells on the window of the primary 2/3 classroom
  • the forth rail bridge and sailing boats on the window
  • doors to the outside and wet weather provision
  • a tipi for a child to go in for peace and quiet, rugs for sitting on the floor

Swapping between classrooms

The Fingals and Forth Sea classes have been designed to be shared between classes for their desired activity.

  • The Fingals class has been furnished for literacy and numeracy activities with more of a focus on flexible chairs and tables.
  • The Forth Sea class has been furnished for collaborative work with with more of a focus on comfortable breakout seating to allow learners to get into small groups for discussion.

Forth Sea classroom before and after

This classroom has multiple zones for different activities and the flexible furniture allows the room to be used in many ways. The room has a blue wall that has been designed as a ‘green screen’ to film in front of allowing removal of the background.

  • on the wall of the classroom are hexagonal storage shelving with plants inside framing the Smart Board. Two sofas face each other over a coffee table. An upturned barrel makes a surface and is surrounded by cushions
  • Flexible furniture, comfy seats, a blue wall can be used as a "green screen"
  • on the wall with the smart board are some fairy lights. a comfy adult chair is in front of it with a stand for a laptop. a circle of different seats surrounds the smart board
  • graphics pf sailing boats and fish on the window to the classroom
  • On the floor of the classroom surrounding a circular rug are three wicker seat pads, an upholstered blue cube seat, a plastic floor seat which has a high back support and no legs and rocks and a white rocking chair.
  • the room is bright and airy, there are plants hanging on the walls. the colour scheme is mostly natural wood with a few upholstered furnishings in blue.

Fingals Cave classroom before and after

This classroom has two fun nooks on the wall where learners can enjoy doing some independent work in a comfortable hideaway. The space has triangle tables that can join up to make different shaped work surfaces.

  • there is a wall of hexagon shapes to make the room look like the stone pattern at Fingal's cave. The hexagons are for shelving, a cloakroom and two nooks to sit inside.
  • graphic of hexagons on the window to the classroom
  • A barrel for a laptop stand ties in with the nautical theme
  • Hexagon nooks for individual working and flexible furniture
  • Trialling triangular desks that can create different shaped surface space
  • An interactive screen, cube shelving and fabric pinboard
  • triangle tables that can be laid out in different patterns

The consultation process

The children had a workshop with the School Estate Planning and Interior Design team where they discussed design ideas and shared their own thoughts with us to put their stamp on the school.

Colour and fabric choice was discussed with the most popular colour choices from the students being:

gold : blue : black : copper : purple : green

We were surprised with gold being a firm favourite but understand the colour has very positive feelings for children as a sign of achievement and being special. We made sure there was some gold in the decoration and you can see it painted in the interior of the cloakrooms in the general purpose space and a few pops of gold can be found around the new space.

Some of the children’s notes from the workshop

  • couch x2, DVD player, clean sink, coral reef library, art place, calm station, white board sink
  • P5 Furniture: round sofa, floor cushions, armchairs, no wheel spinny chairs, TV in library, bean bags, projector table, gaming chair, cup holders in tables, new teachers desk, fish tank in library, own computer with name tag on them
  • P5 advantages and challenges: challenges triangle tables, sofa wall can block teachers, there is no colour. Advantages: sofa is comfy so it makes you comfortable and focus, spinny chairs are good because if some was talking behind you, i like the beanbags because it is comfortable if you are watching something.

The learners did a lot of work in the workshops with us and in class. The learners who were in P6 during 2017/18 enjoyed the benefit of a newly refurbished classroom that year and were able to lead the learner engagement by doing presentations and gathering learner’s views on what they like about their learning environment and what they think could be a challenge. You can read more about the refurbishment of that classroom further down the page.

  • I like the reading space because its a little house to read in. i love the beanbags to sit comfortably and listen to a story and i like the friendship bench because i like the rainbow
  • I like this because it is colourful. i think the second room will make me feel calm
  • P2 ideas: colourful smart lightbulbs, nice coloured tables, name tags on our seats and colourful soft stools, colour on the walls - red, green, rainbow, silver, nice big colourful cloakrooms, glass walls/doors because it looks clean, lets light in and bright not wasting electricity
  • a drawing of flexible tables that join together to make different shapes

We have collated learner feedback we received and have highlighted the suggestions and comments that have influenced the new design.

St Margaret’s learner research

St Margarets learner consultation feedback

We also had some great feedback and suggestions from the school staff.

Pilot primary 6 classroom

The interior design team designed an experimental classroom for the P6’s in 2017 to trial some of the innovative furniture and layout inspired by the work of Professor Stephen Heppell, Phoebe Caldwell, Architecture Design Scotland and the Inspiring Learning Spaces project.

Ahead of the larger scale refurbishment at St Margaret’s RC Primary School for 2018, we developed an experimental classroom to trial a variety of furniture types for the P6’s.

The Interior Design Team incorporated the same key space elements as in their other future school projects at Trinity and Cramond primary schools. 

St Margarets P6 classroom layout

Learners Consultation for the Primary 6 classroom

Consultation with learners has been a huge contributor throughout the design process at St Margaret’s RC Primary School. We carried out a workshop with the learners to allow them to design their new space. They chose:

  • high back sofas
  • mobile tables
  • chairs with castors
  • upholstered stools
  • high tables 
  • stools to sit or stand at 
  • a reading corner with beanbags

The designers introduced muted colours to create a calm feel to the space along with more vinyl flooring than carpet to allow for messy activities to take place in the space. Carpet was introduced to the reading corner and gathering point for extra comfort when sitting on the floor.

After the installation of the new furniture, we revisited the school to find out what worked and what doesn’t work. The learners were all generally very positive about the space and really enjoyed the new furniture types.

Positives

They felt that the variety of spaces to work in and freedom to choose the area that suited the mood or activity was positive as was the ability to move the individual tables and chairs around. 

  • Flexibility to choose seating type
  • Room within a room – high backed sofas created a quiet space to focus or work in
    small groups.
  • Chairs with castors allow for movement for all learners to fidget rather than providing special chairs that singled out individuals.
  • Colours created a calming feel to the space.
  • Extra screens for audio visual display.
  • The layout and variety of seating types provide the opportunity for freedom of movement and quiet retreat so it is now hard to spot learners with additional support needs.

Negatives

  • Triangle tables were restrictive for activities such as art due to their size and their inability to form a large continuous surface.
  • The whiteboard walls felt too stark – it would be preferred if more colour was introduced through a mixture of pinboards and whiteboard walls.
  • High backed sofas are heavy and not easily moved -adding castors to these
    would increase flexibility.
  • Wobble stools were being used incorrectly – instructions for furniture use required.
  • Having the carpet areas fixed to the floor could be restrictive and would prefer a more flexible solution such as a rug.
  • Additional Audio Visual screens for display and collaboration were not used correctly for several months due to issues with network connectivity and lack of training around full benefits of new interactive screen. 
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