Pop-Up Schools for Socially Distanced Learning

  • Learning

Following the latest announcement from the UK government on its plans to allow primary schools in England to reopen to some year groups from June, we have developed a new design concept to address the challenges which many schools in the UK and beyond will face when they reopen in maintaining the necessary social distancing among pupils and staff.

Our idea sees a series of pop-up, tent-like structures, each of which is arranged to follow the two-metre social distancing rule between pupils, with the adaptability to host different classroom setups. We propose reusing resources such as marquees and portable bathroom facilities from outdoor festivals that would otherwise be dormant during the current pandemic. Where appropriate, renewable energy sources can also be provided on site in the form of PV arrays and solar evacuated tubes for hot water heating. Clockwise movements within and outside the structures will be encouraged, in a similar approach to Buddhist stupas to avoid crossing over between individuals. This temporary provision will help liberate existing internal school space taking the pupil load off restricted circulation areas, but also enhance air-flow contributing to individuals’ wellbeing.

Simple and adaptable, the concept can be applied to different outdoor settings; from football pitches to pedestrianised areas and neighbouring parks. It also suggests opening up and using public spaces in unconventional ways that might not be thought of previously; for example, maximising the use of closed residential streets and encouraging safe community integration as lockdown eases.

Wayne Head, Director, CLTH, said:
In contemplating with our children on how schools might return to normal after the lockdown, my partner Marianne Christiansen inspired me to consider outdoor learning, something that schools in Denmark have already adopted for their classes using tent-like structures.

Our education design team then carried out a series of studies and came up with the idea of transferring a proportion of teaching provision into temporary structures, using large-scale tents typically seen at festivals.

This is by no means our answer to what classrooms should look like in the future. We wanted to use this as a catalyst for further discussions, to rethink how schools can be designed and used beyond COVID-19.

On Site
We have trialled our proposal at Manorfield Primary School in Tower Hamlets, London. Working with Cumbria-based marquee specialist, Original Marquees, the temporary structure has been used to host classrooms and as a lunch area for pupils, delivering at least 25% more socially distanced capacity than what the school currently offers.

Paul Jackson, Headteacher, Manorfield Primary School, said:
Our children have been out of school for far too long. We want to bring as many children back to school in as safe a way as possible. We won’t bring back more children than it is safe to and need to find creative solutions to enable the wider opening of schools. The creation of additional pop-up accommodation in our playground will support us in doing this and meeting the needs of our children. We are very excited to see more of them returning to school.

The project has featured in the press, links to the articles below:
Architects Journal
Building Design
The Telegraph
Evening Standard
Teaching Times

For related enquiries, please email popup@clth.co.uk