Pick Everard is a lead sponsor of the SPACES Study Day here at Manchester School of Architecture, providing workshops on the design of Special Educational Needs amongst others. 

It’s not until you sit in a workshop, listen to an expert and actually focus on a topic, that you realise the number of considerations an Architect must undertake when designing a school for pupils with Special Educational Needs.

In today’s world, these considerations run much further than ramps, accessible bathrooms, durable materials and soft corners; it’s about designing a total environment capable of maximising the enjoyment and successful learning for the pupils and the staff.

Today’s considerations range from attention deficit issues and positioning classroom doors in such a way that they do not directly align, and eliminating a view into other classrooms, limiting glass within doors, placing windows higher to prevent views to outside; Sound insulated time-out rooms for students with emotional outbursts, but located for privacy to offer the pupil dignity.

Interior design features require so much thought to find the optimum balance: pupils with visual disturbance will struggle with certain colours, patterns, and contrasts whilst bright colours can provide a positive stimulation for other pupils.

Outdoor areas offer opportunities for socialising, quiet time, playtime, physical activity and fun.  A mixture of soft and hard landscapes support outdoor activities, provide physical challenges. But they need to be designed to offer full accessibility to all along with safety and security.

Ultimately, the Architect has to understand the specific difficulties and challenges faced by the pupils on different spectrums and staff on a daily basis to deliver an optimal environment for the pupils to develop and thrive.