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Nicholas Chamberlaine School

all, schools & trusts

Large secondary school useing co-design to activate every space as a learning space.

A cornerstone of Griffin School Trust’s strategy to broaden horizons and aspirations for their students is to make their schools approachable and orientated towards their community. At their largest secondary schools this is significantly hindered by having buildings either owned and managed by large corporate landlords or provided ‘to specification’ by national government


Students and staff feel anonymous in their dull and impersonal school environment, and disenfranchised as they struggle with impracticalities imposed upon them by faceless bureaucracies - “its like going to school in a cardboard box” one sixth-former describes. The trust had little internal resource for design or strategic thinking but knew they needed to act fast.


We started by working with school leaders to identify a group of achievable micro-projects that could be delivered quickly in order to make a clear, tangible difference, getting students and staff motivated, and informing further development over time through more in-depth co-design and wider estate planning.


Design work began with students responding to the problems and opportunities offered by the existing arrangements, and progressed along a variety of routes, including schemes by students to improve communal areas, feature furniture to activate key spaces, quick-win furniture that helps build interest, and design guidance that school staff can adopt and deliver themselves in classrooms and curriculum spaces.


Our build team delivered bespoke furniture during the summer break to maintain momentum over the holiday period and provide a 'wow factor' when students and staff returned in the autumn, setting the tone for further development. We are combining new high quality natural materials such as birch plywood and powder coated steel with modern reclaimed materials and antique vintage furniture


Students and staff are motivated about change and developing a stronger sense of ownership and commitment to the school. School leaders and managers are able to test their design and educational thinking and develop process for further collaborative working. The buildings are starting to look and feel like somewhere special, in habited by a community of inquisitive, empowered learners.

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