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Kelvinside looks to Scandinavia as classrooms get makeover

Victorian classroom thinking has been replaced with a collaborative, pupil-focused approach.

A primary school has consigned its traditional classrooms to the history books.

Kelvinside Academy is trying something new with its young people in primary school.

And the new look is based on the Scandinavian model of collaborate learning and informal classroom spaces.

So, out have gone rows and rows of regimented chairs and tables.

And in are modular, box seating, mobile teaching stations and whiteboard tables.

Reflection pods, where pupils can absorb what they’ve learned before they move on, have also been installed.

Kelvinside Academy is an independent, fee-paying school in the heart of the West End.

Clare Sweeney, head of Kelvinside Academy Junior School, said the impetus for change had followed from the pandemic.

She said the last year had been hugely challenging, and had prompted schools to ask whether teaching could be done differently.

She said: “Everyone has had the opportunity to ask if what they were doing before was really creating the best possible outcome.

No more rows and rows of regimented chairs and tables. Photo credit: Elaine Livingstone
No more rows and rows of regimented chairs and tables. Photo credit: Elaine Livingstone

“We realised that if we want to teach our children to collaborate, challenge and follow their own curiosity, we have to start with the classroom.”

She said: “Classrooms haven’t really changed since the Victorian era. 

“They are typically set-up for rows and rows of children to sit and listen to a teacher. This teaches them to be compliant. 

“We want them to flourish in every part of life. 

“If your child was to visit a school in Finland or Sweden, their experience would be radically different because of their strong pedagogical approach, which focuses on play and relationships, and allows for learning to take place through their interaction with each other. 

“That’s key to our philosophy at Kelvinside Academy.” 

We realised that if we want to teach our children to collaborate, challenge and follow their own curiosity, we have to start with the classroom

Clare Sweeney

The new classrooms are the latest investment by the school which began making changes in 2016, replacing its library with a Silicon Valley-inspired ‘thinking space’.

In 2018,  the school invested in its outdoor learning programme with the purchase of a wilderness campus in the Highlands and a school yacht.  

The following year, it consolidated its partnership with Boston-based NuVu by building the world’s first full-time innovation school.

Rector Dan Wyatt said: “The transformation of our classrooms sends yet another message to our pupils, parents and teachers that we aren’t going to follow routines and pedagogy just because it’s the way it’s always been done. 

“We will take big leaps forward to make sure that pupils at our school receive the best possible education. 

“Primary pupils at our school have a huge opportunity to learn not just in these incredible new classrooms, but also outdoors and in our NuVu Innovation School. 

“By giving our pupils the opportunity to experience these different, unique environments, we hope to protect the wonder, creativity and curiosity that children all too often lose as they progress through school.”

'We aren’t going to follow routines and pedagogy just because it’s the way it’s always been done'. Photo credit: Elaine Livingstone
'We aren’t going to follow routines and pedagogy just because it’s the way it’s always been done'. Photo credit: Elaine Livingstone

Clare explained more about the seating, saying: "We have two-step bleacher seating blocks that allow pupils to sit comfortably on two levels. 

“Children can choose which level to sit at when working collaboratively with other pupils allowing them to make eye contact with pupils sitting across from them - encouraging stronger communication and empathy.  

"It offers a more flexible way to sit comfortably to share ideas and thoughts - as well as offering them a little bit of height for presenting without standing up in the middle of the classroom.  

“When the pupils sit together on the bleachers it helps develop a core team feeling, a collegiate approach to solving a problem or working on something new.”

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