Children's voices: raised issues for school design

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The school environment affects pupils' health, work, leisure and emotions. On average, children spend around 6 hours a day and over 1000 hours a year in school. They are constantly interacting with the physical environment of their schools. However, in a review of numerous publications on educational theory and spaces, the quality of the school environment is rarely mentioned, and often schools are not inviting or sensitive towards children's needs. It seems important to consider the ways in which children understand and experience the built environment. However, architects have not studied the child as the user of schools in great detail, and architectural plans seldom include children's suggestions. This paper points out the importance of matching the needs of pupils to spaces within which the diverse activities take place. This study explores the views and expectations of children for satisfying school environments. The literature review and findings of empirical studies in the UK support the promotion and consideration of children's voices in the school design process. This paper presents a specific set of issues raised by children about school design related to their needs, required physical features and spatial qualities for a desirable school. They emerged through an analysis of three previous studies in the UK: ‘The School I'd Like’ (Burke and Grosvenor 2003: Routledge, London); ‘Joinedupdesignforschools’ (Sorrell 2005: Merrell, London); and ‘The Young Design Programme’ (The Sorrell Foundation 2006 and 2007). It is intended that the results of this study could be a guide for school communities, local authorities and design and construction teams involved in the school building process, helping them to improve the quality of school environments. Suggestions are made for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-236
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2008


  • school environment
  • design participation
  • children's voices


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