A sound foundation? What we know about the impact of environments on learning and the implications for Building Schools for the Future

Pamela Woolner, Elaine Hall, Steve Higgins, Caroline McCaughey, Kate Wall

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103 Citations (Scopus)


This paper reports on a literature review conducted in the UK for the Design Council and CfBT (Higgins et al., 2005) which looked at the evidence of the impact of environments on learning in schools. We have reviewed the available evidence regarding different facets of the physical environment and provided an analysis based on different areas of effect, including the extent to which different facets interact (positively and negatively) with one another. Our conclusions suggest that, although the research often indicates the parameters of an effective environment, there is an overall lack of empirical evidence about the impact of individual elements of the physical environment which might inform school design at a practical level to support student achievement. However, at a secondary level of analysis, there are indications that environmental change can be part of a catalytic process of school development and improvement. The implications of these findings for Building Schools for the Future will be discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-70
Number of pages24
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2007
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2007


  • schools
  • school design
  • learning environment
  • Building Schools for the Future

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