The Space

Reflect on the spaces around your school. Have the layout, furniture and activities for each space been carefully thought about and reviewed? The number of specialist companies that produce furniture for schools suggests that there is a huge focus on the physical space in schools, with constant renovations and installations in order to create welcoming and innovative spaces for learning.

The characteristics of physical learning environments that promote progress has been a focus of many academic studies. Learning environments are hugely significant; they help students to learn how to respect shared spaces and materials, allow them to anticipate what kinds of activities will happen in certain spaces and help to suppress anxiety by providing predictability (7).

If the impact of classroom space is worthy of reflection, then perhaps we need to apply this same scrutiny to the spaces in which we have school meetings.

Case Study

An emergency meeting was called regarding the risky and potentially illegal behaviour of a student with significant special educational needs. It was held in a local authority building away from the school. The room was small and the table was long and thin, with ten people squeezed around the wooden slab cutting down the middle of the room. Each chair had just enough space to move clumsily back before hitting the wall, allowing the participant to shuffle in and then shuffle forward, hitting the table with their body.

The room had no windows, but a bright artificial light covered the participants at the table. The father of the student sat at the far end of the table and berated the school staff for not providing, in his opinion, enough support for his son. His anger felt accusatory, and the tension hung in the air, heavy and sad.


A situation so fraught with tension and in need of impactful decisions required a meeting that really ensured that the key stakeholders came together and could make assessments and decisions that supported the student. The physical space was active in this scenario, arguably an extra member of the meeting. How could the organisers have provided a space that would have considered the nature of the meeting and that met everyone’s needs? How could it have been used to help make decisions?

Research shows that meeting spaces can affect the creativity and collaborative nature of those involved. In some ways, school meetings are about decisions and sometimes those decisions have to be made with flexibility and creativity in mind.

Physical Meeting Space

Have you ever been in a meeting where you could hear the meeting taking place next door? Or the bell rang in the middle of the meeting, after which streams of teenagers poured into the halls, creating a background noise more suitable for a concert? Or have you been in a meeting where the room had no windows? Or the window faced onto the playground giving a full view of the students swinging on the monkey bars? How did this impact the mood? Lighting, noise and views can all impact a meeting. Any space in the school can become a meeting space, so don’t feel limited by specified meeting rooms.

What are the characteristics of a meeting space that fosters collaboration, connection and productivity?

(7) Rohrer, M., & Samson, N. (2014). 10 critical components for success in the special education classroom. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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