School Facilities Scorecard

How does your school stack up?
Buildings should connect students and learning.

In practice for 18 years, JDH Architects commonly hear that schools face similar challenges and concerns around educational re-design.

Firstly, schools are hesitant or concerned for a re-design because of the failure of previous projects to deliver the required educational benefit. Where educational objectives have not been set clearly, resulting buildings do not address either current or future objectives.

Secondly, there is often a discrepancy between the learner and the learning environment. Many schools were not originally designed with the needs of 21st century learning in mind. Rather just retaining knowledge, today’s students must curate new ways of thinking, working and living. Contemporary learning is critical for preparing for students for the future world, contributing to society and the workforce as critical, creative-thinkers, communicators, and collaborators.

The Schools Facility Scorecard created by JDH Architects is a comprehensive analysis report that offers insights into the strengths and weaknesses of a school’s facilities. JDH welcomes all decision-makers in education including principals and deans to complete the questionnaire via their website (

Once complete, the report will detail how well the school's facilities are currently performing against Best Practice Educational Design and provides a broad-brush guide to consider for future plans for the development. The Scorecard Report, emailed after taking the test, will provide comparison and advice on Planning, School Grounds, Connectivity, Buildings, Environmental design, Safety and Security and Flexible Learning Space – encouraging educators to push through the challenges of designing for the 21st Century and become more focused in their thinking.

1 Planning – Many schools have a legacy arrangement of buildings on site, but a successful master plan will interrogate site and building constraints and transform them into opportunities. Key site elements such as typography, orientation, position, and views should be considered to enhance the overall character of the site and assist in fostering a sense of place. Factors such as vehicular and pedestrian circulation, accessibility, safety, and security should be considered to ensure your campus is effective, safe, and accessible to all.

2 School Grounds – School grounds should be designed to include opportunities for social and play spaces, outdoor learning, and recreation, as well as sporting facilities. Research shows that time in nature has a rejuvenating effect on attention; relieves stress; boosts self-discipline; increases and promotes student well being.

3 Connectivity – Often schools’ development over time leads to a disconnection between buildings which inhibits the current educational agenda. Design should create spaces between the buildings that are purposeful, including outdoor learning areas in which collaboration can happen. Both vehicular and pedestrian circulation should be considered and this thinking extended beyond the site to connect to include community and transport hubs. Ensure pedestrian circulation routes are safe and sheltered in wet weather. Accessibility across school sites is often impaired by legacy buildings and levels, but equitable travel should be a key consideration when planning any school. Most importantly, all travel and circulation should efficient, equitable and not detract from the time available for teaching and learning. Design vertical circulation such as stairwells to avoid congestion and encourage positive behaviour.

4 Buildings – Good architecture is created when there is a strong concept or idea driving the design. This idea generates ways in which old and new buildings relate to one another and can inspire wonder and delight. Ensure the form, massing and appearance of the buildings are appropriate to the site's scale and celebrate historical context. Create consistency in the typology of buildings, ensuring that spaces accommodate the educational agenda whist performing environmentally. Environmental design will be a key driver for the orientation and fenestration of your buildings. Older building stock can benefit from environmental upgrades both aesthetically and in terms of performance. Select building materials that are robust and easy to maintain yet positively contribute to the overall quality and ethos of the school. Design buildings that enable, inspire, and celebrate learning.

5 Learning Space – Learning is best supported by spatial diversity, provide environments that have the potential to engage students in a variety of ways. The feedback from teachers is that when students (and teachers) move between different and varied internal and external space, the scope of pedagogical approaches is broadened. Spaces for small group gathering, digital presentation, performance or simply for a quiet space for rest and respite can happen in the often-underutilised spaces between classrooms. However, choice is not empowering if the options provided are only specified and developed by the architect – learners and teachers are a valuable part of the design. Post occupancy reviews reveal that contemporary learning spaces make students feel happier, safer, and valued, and consequently, are more willing to learn.

6 Safe and Secure – A successful scheme will create a school that is both secure and inviting. Boundaries and entrances should be visible, with buildings and grounds designed to support passive surveillance. When designing schools for safety, create a secure campus that is still welcoming by limiting the permeability of the site and ensuring that access points are easily surveilled. An easy way to “fence in” the campus without using fencing is to site the building so that the exterior walls create a secure perimeter. Social spaces should be organised to ensure they are open and inviting, and circulation spaces planned so that they are easy to supervise. A school that feels safe and secure supports student well being, encourages positive behaviour, and cultivates community.

7 Flexibility – Modern pedagogy is often at odds with the traditional. Enter the flexible learning space. Learning spaces should reflect this complexity without putting extra strain on the teacher or teaching time. Rather than providing one type of flexible space, consider a variety of spaces that can accommodate different activities and group sizes. Provide spaces that support personalised learning, group display and presentation, student breakout areas and areas for teachers to collaborate and complete professional learning. When people think of a flexible learning environment, they often think only of the physical space. There is much more to a flexible learning environment than just the physical floor plan or furniture choices.

8 Future Proofing – Whist measuring changes in academic performance is complex and generally attributable to a range of factors making design just one of many, our experience is that quality design and engaging consultation can positively influence pedagogy and learning outcomes. As education adapts to the evolving needs of each generation, the ability of a school campus to accommodate change is an important part of future planning. Teaching methodology is often traditional prior to the construction of new buildings; however, the provision of different learning spaces can provide teachers (and students) with the tools to introduce a more contemporary pedagogy.