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Education Symposium Focuses on Designing to Facilitate Great Teaching

The symposium, convened and organised by Massey University, in Auckland, and sponsored by APL Window Solutions, brought together professionals from many disciplines in a forum which explored the future of education facilities.

Speakers at the capacity gathering noted that while health and functionality were key priorities in school design, the biggest influence on school success was the teacher. An associate principal of an Auckland school challenged the symposium – "how do we facilitate great teacher learning through design?"

Another educationist, Chris Theobald, Principal of Holy Family School, Porirua East, said that while environmental factors such as ventilation, temperature and acoustics were important, teacher effectiveness and comfort were crucial. Pedagogical excellence was what schools sought and this required that teachers be able to control the environment to suit themselves as well as pupils.

Wendy Nelson, an Auckland educator at the Brainwave Trust Aotearoa, also touched on the important consideration that teachers required in educational architecture, especially in the pre-school sector. Brain development was at its most rapid in the first three to four years of life, and healthy, consistent relationships for children were key requirements in the process of developing and strengthening neural connections. Low staff turnover was therefore important in pre-school education facilities. "We need to create spaces that teachers want to stay in," she said.

Early childhood education had increased in importance in recent years, with attendance by children rising from 90% in 2000 to 96.2% in 2015. Average weekly attendance had risen from 13.5 hours to 20.7 hours, Wendy said.

Craig Cliff, Senior Policy Manager at the Ministry of Education, said that spatial considerations needed to be aligned with teaching practice. The sector was on the cusp of a wave of research that was being carried out on building and spatial configurations. Careful physical planning was crucial in the state and state-integrated school system where there was an inventory of 30,000 buildings on 8,000Ha of land with a replacement value of $24 billion.

Three brainstorming sessions were held during the symposium, with participants answering a specific set of questions. A symposium report will be made publicly available, which is intended to contribute towards an education facilities roadmap supporting children’s education and wellbeing.

The gathering was also sponsored by CASA (Collingridge and Smith Architects UK Ltd), whose Auckland Principal, Phil Smith, spoke on sustainable design and passive energy techniques which he had implemented in a number of Auckland early childhood centres.

APL Window Solutions, proprietor of the Altherm, First and Vantage brands, has been a supplier to some of the CASA projects.

View more information on FIRST Windows & Doors, including contact details.
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