Designing Furniture for Your Classrooms

We know first-hand just how much furniture can help to transform classrooms into truly stunning and effective spaces that are both practical and aesthetically pleasing.

Equally, if the furniture has not been carefully considered and selected, it can have the complete opposite effect on these spaces.

Below we have shared some key things we advise schools to consider when designing furniture for their classroom spaces to ensure they achieve the best outcome possible.

 

Durability and ROI

It is vital that the furniture you design and select is fit for purpose and ensures you get the most out of your budget.

Classroom furniture should be seen as a long term investment, and therefore quality and durability should be at the top of your priority list.

Although we believe that following trends is good to help you keep up with 21st century learning, we feel that quality should be at forefront.

We have a proven track record of manufacturing furniture that can handle the rigours of each learning environment and offer a five year fair wear and tear guarantee.

 

Classroom Ergonomics

The ‘one size fits all’ approach to school furniture, particularly seating, is no longer effective.

Children spend approximately 15,000 hours sitting down during their school years, and with approximately 13% of children aged 10-16 having significant incidents of recurrent back pain, ergonomics should be a key priority in the design of your classroom furniture.

Furniture must fit the children, allow movement, provide correct and a good level of back support and encourage good posture.

Children may become restless and uncomfortable, resulting in a decreased attention span and reduce their learning potential if they are spending prolonged periods of time sat at desks that are either too small or too big.

In some instances, we have worked with schools to design adjustable desks and chairs so that each piece of furniture could be used by all school years.

 

Classroom Safety

Safety should be a key factor when selecting the materials for your furniture.

At Witley Jones, we can advise your school on the best materials to ensure the end product is compliant with health and safety and fire safety regulations.

All worktops have finger-safe edges, chamfered edges to edging tape, We use robust hinges that minimise the possibility of finger entrapment as well as formaldehyde-free lacquer on veneered jobs.

 

Maximising space

We understand that space is in limited supply across most school estates, so it is vital that your classroom furniture makes the best use of the space you have available.

Teaching Walls are a great example of how furniture design can help to achieve this, but there are also a variety of other design features that can help to maximise space, such as IT desks with storage for towers and wires, locker storage, shelving and drawers.

Epsom College Teaching Wall

Collaborative learning

Collaborative learning provides students with opportunities to engage in discussions with their peers, work cooperatively and support each other, which in turn helps to develop theircommunication and team work skills.

Furniture can be used to help facilitate this collaborative learning and one way you can achieve this is through designing tables that fit together in shapes, or tables with wheels, making them easy to move to collaborate.

 

Colour

We have previously discussed the extent to which colours can affect mood, focus and learning, and how important it is to understand these possible effects when deciding on colours for your classroom.

Your choice of colours can also help you to create a modern and smart look across your classrooms. You could even look to tie in the colours with your school’s branding, the different colours for your school houses, or you could even give each subject a different colour and match your classroom furniture to these colours. However, it is important that you consider practicality when choosing colours.

 

Unique and quirky design features vs. practicality

We understand the want to make your classroom spaces unique, to help give your school a modern and sleek look, and to help you to make these spaces fun and engaging for your students.

With careful considerations and design tweaks, you can still have a design that is quirky, whilst still being practical, a worthy investment and conforming to British Standards

If you would like to discuss any of the requirements you may have for your classroom furniture, we would be more than happy to help.

Designing Furniture for Boarding Accommodation

Having worked with a variety of boarding schools across the UK, we understand that there are a number of factors that come into play when designing boarding accommodation and the furniture for these spaces.

If you are currently planning a new boarding house or a refurbishment of your current boarding accommodation, we have collated a number of considerations that you may find useful when specifying boarding accommodation furniture.

Practical Requirements

Durability

We understand that for many schools, the furniture you select for your boarding houses and other spaces is significant investment – you want to get the most out of your budget. Therefore, it is vital that the furniture you select is durable and long lasting

When selecting and designing your furniture, it is important to select high quality materials that will last for years to come.

With students using their boarding furniture on a daily basis during term time, the design and materials you select for this furniture must be able to withstand rigorous use. We have a proven track record of manufacturing furniture that can handle the rigours of each boarding environment and offer a five year fair wear and tear guarantee.

 

Practicality

As well as focusing on creating furniture that has the ‘wow’ factor, it is important to ensure that pieces of furniture will still be practical and useful over a long period of time.

Utilising the available space is an important consideration when designing and specifying boarding accommodation furniture. You need to strike the balance between creating acomfortable environment and ensuring you maximise the number of students in the boarding house.

 

Security, privacy and storage

These are all major factors that need to be considered in the design of boarding furniture and are a necessity for boarding accommodation.

We help schools to achieve this is through implementing a one key locking system per student where all lockable items of furniture for a student are opened using the same key so the student does not have multiple keys for different items of furniture.

We are also able to offer a range of combination locks and electronic safes built into your boarding furniture. All of these solutions come with master keys so that boarding house and estates staff are able to get access when required.

bespoke boarding accommodation furniture

 

Individual and personal requirements

Home away from home

Boarding school is often a child’s first foray into the independent world and no matter what their age, this experience can be daunting and scary. This is where the design of boarding accommodation can play a role in helping to create a space that has that home away from home feel for a child.

One way to achieve this is through designing furniture that provides an opportunity for individuality. You can still make small changes to provide your students with the opportunity to tailor their spaces to their own style, one example being a pin board.

This inexpensive piece of furniture is the perfect way to allow your students to pin up posters, pictures, helping to make their space their own and achieving that homely feel without causing damage to the walls or furniture.

Study environment vs. relaxed environment

Boarding accommodation needs to be the perfect balance between a study and living environment.

When selecting a boarding school, parents will want to know their child will be getting the best out of the experience in terms of the academic and social aspects that boarding offers.

In order to achieve this, you need to consider the design and furniture for both your social spaces and study spaces.

 

Social spaces are important

There are some things that children learn best outside the classroom and boarding provides them with the opportunity to build their social skills and develop vital qualities, such as independence and resilience.

It is important that the furniture within your social spaces facilitates collaboration, conversations, team work and fun. Encourage students to use these spaces, through incorporating aspects such as colour, comfort, games, and designing furniture that can be moved easily to create opportunities for collaboration.

 

Colour schemes

We understand that your school may have different boarding houses, so it is important to consider whether you would like the design of your furniture to tie in with the colour schemes for these different houses, or whether you would like it tie in with your school’s overall branding.

You should also consider theimpact that different colours may have on your students. We have previously discussed the effects that colours can have on mood, focus and learning.

Teaching Walls installed at The Hall School, London

In recent months, we have worked alongside Clarks Construction to complete a classroom refurbishment project installing three teaching walls at The Hall School in London.

This project in the lower ground floor of the Junior school was the final phase in the refurbishment programme taking place at the school.

We have worked with Clarks Construction and The Hall School  previously. We completed at project at Swanbourne House with Clarks Construction and installed pieces of furniture at The Hall School in recent years.

During the project we designed, manufactured and installed 3 teaching walls for classrooms in the basement along with cloakroom and corridor storage.

The height of the ceiling varied between rooms which meant that whilst the teaching walls all looked the same, they were in fact all different heights in order to maximise the size and storage space available in each room. Some of the teaching walls also incorporated a teachers desk in order to save space elsewhere in the classrooms.

In cloakroom area, we supplied coat hook rails and lunchbox/bag pigeonhole storage. We also manufactured bespoke corridor storage units as well as the staff rooms storage units.

Sam Clark, Clarks Construction, was particularly pleased with the “proactive and collaborative approach when working on site to get the project finished when working to a tight deadline.

“Witley Jones’ high quality of workmanship with their professional manner and amenable approach are exactly what is required when working projects such as these.”

Teaching walls are being used across the school estate and have been for a number of years. These innovative solutions that neatly house interactive whiteboards as well as providing much needed storage space are being installed as classrooms are refurbished and modernised.

“Teaching walls concentrate the space and reduce clutter around the classrooms which is important in a learning environment. As they are bespoke, they fill the available space perfectly from floor to ceiling.” commented Peter Finn, Clerk of the Works, The Hall School.

“Having first worked with Witley Jones over 10 years ago, we find them very easy to work, accommodating and provide unique design ideas. Their furniture always stands the test of time – the first piece that they manufactured for the school is still in use today.”

Exciting Education Events in 2019

We have a number of education events and conferences that we will be attending throughout the coming year that we would like to share with you.

BSA Annual Conference for Deputy Heads – 30th Jan-1st Feb 

The Boarding School Association will be hosting the Annual Conference for Deputy Heads and Heads of Boarding at the end of January at The Grand Hotel, Brighton

The conference will explore the sectors overseas relationships and highlight important updates related to boarding schools as well looking at personal well being.

With a long list of excellent guest speakers, including Dale Wilkins, Head of Safeguarding at BSA and Nick Gregory, Headmaster at Wycliffe College to name a few, this is set to be a great conference.

We are excited to be showing a new set of boarding furniture made specifically for this show featuring integrated electrics on the furniture.

Visit our stand and see the boarding furniture and be in with a chance of winning this set of furniture for your school.

 

Boarding School Association Annual Conference for Heads – 7th – 9th May

At the start of May, the Boarding School Association will be hosting yet another excellent event, this time the Annual Conference for Heads – a conference that brings together an array of headteachers and senior leaders from across the UK.

With this year’s theme focusing around ‘Building Character’, there is range of speakers lined up for this event that will cover topics such as safeguarding, tracking character education, volunteering and how it impacts character development and much more.

We are looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and meeting some new ones in London.

 

ISBA Annual Conference– 21st-22nd May

The ISBA Annual Conference is set to take place on the 21st-22nd May and will attract over 400 bursars and senior management staff from member schools to the Manchester Central Convention Complex to discuss a range of topics.

This two-day conference not only provides a great opportunity for bursars to network with colleagues and share ideas, it also provides them with the chance to meet the 140+ exhibitors and suppliers.

We will be designing some new and exciting furniture to show on our stand at this conference so make sure you pay us a visit to see what we have come up with this year.

Witley Jones work with Cotswold RDA to create a Sensory Table

We recently had the pleasure of working with Cotswold RDA, on a unique project – to design and manufacture a sensory table for users of the Riding School.

We worked with the association during 2018; donating a number of lockers and storage units to help riders and staff, whose time and energy help generate a uniquely positive and ambitious attitude throughout the centre.

Based at Cheltenham Racecourse, Cotswold RDA encourages riders to achieve the best they can, regardless of age or disability – whether it be physical, mental or a learning difficulty. In excess of 200 riders use the facility each week and are supported by over 160 volunteers.

We were asked to design and manufacture a sensory table, to help assist with interactive learning sessions, delivered by the group coaches to riders at the school. Using a more ‘hands on’ approach, riders are able to learn about horse care, maintenance, nutrition and other elements outside of riding – which happens in the extremely impressive on-site arena. This has huge benefits for rider’s physical health, confidence, communication skills, social interaction and horsemanship.

Throughout the project, we worked very closely with Cotswold RDA, to ensure the design met their expectations and included all the desired features; as well as two of our suppliers – Arnold Laver and Tube Creation, who donated materials to help assist with our design and manufacturing process.

For the table frame, Jake Bailey at Tube Creation kindly agreed to manufacture a robust powder coated frame with adjustable feet. He made the following comment about the project: “The Tube Creation Co was very pleased to be involved in the project, alongside Witley Jones, for the metalwork element of the table. I personally have experience of the RDA over the last 40 or so years and I am so pleased to continue to support the very worthwhile charity” – Jake Bailey, Managing Director, The Tube Creation Company.

Neil Wyatt at Arnold Laver, also kindly donated a brightly coloured laminate table top (Witley Jones machined this to cater for hardwearing plastic boxes) which now contain feeds, horse hair, stirrups and other tack that users can physically hold and discuss during each session. The plywood top is as much robust as it is decorative.

Collectively, this project was a real team effort between ourselves, Cotswold RDA, Arnold Laver and Tube Creation, and we want to acknowledge everyone’s contribution, which helped make the project such a success.

Since Witley Jones delivered the sensory table to the riding school, it has already been used and incorporated into the sessions; Claire Jenkins, General Manager at the Cotswold RDA made the following comment: “The sensory table has proved to be a huge hit and a very valuable resource for our learning and taster sessions. Our group coaches absolutely love it and gives them a structured area to back up the learning that happens in the lessons. Our riders really enjoy being able to experience the textures and feel of the different aspects”.

We are delighted the table has proved to be such a big hit and is being enjoyed by both staff and riders at the riding school. We are delighted to be able to able to support Cotswold RDA once more.

As an independent charity, the Cotswold RDA rely solely on the work of their volunteers, donations and the fees from the riders, so they regularly run events such as their ‘Afternoon Tea’ events, pony sessions and family taster sessions, to help attract more riders and raise more funds to enable them to make a difference to more people and continue providing their riders will truly special and quality experiences.

If you are interested in finding out more about their ‘Afternoon Tea with a Pony’ sessions or about the riding school itself, you can contact the school via:

Cotswold Riding for the Disabled

Jackie Brutton Riding School

Prestbury Park Racecourse

Cheltenham

Gloucestershire GL50 4SH

Tel: 01242 584420

Email: info@cotswoldrda.org.uk

Website: www.cotswoldrda.org.uk

Witley Jones complete 3 Science Laboratory Projects in Summer 2018

We are delighted to have successfully completed three unique Science Laboratory furniture projects at Pipers Corner School, Lichfield Cathedral School and Derby High School.

Each of one these installations required bespoke designs in order to meet their individual requirements to create engaging learning environments and maximise the teaching space available.

 

Pipers Corner School

Pipers Corner School in Buckinghamshire opened their Octagonal Science Laboratory, situated in the South Wing courtyard, at the beginning of the academic year.

The board of Governors wanted a statement building to fit in with the school being recognised as a leader in STEM subjects. After exploring a number of ideas with their architect, the school settled on an octagonal shape building.

“We visited a number of schools where Witley Jones had completed projects to see their finished work first-hand. It was important for us to get a feel of how schools work with Witley Jones, especially the provision and process of the contract.” commented Bob Pearce, Bursar, Pipers Corner School.

“There is attention to detail and then there is Witley Jones’ attention to detail.”

“I had positive engagement from Matt Jones right from the outset of the project through to the fit out of the furniture.

“Detailed drawings and explanations were provided at meetings with the main contractors, other parties and ourselves to keep everyone up-to-date with the progress.”

Bob went onto to say how he was “struck” by how it seemed to be that Pipers Corner School were our only priority and the only project we were working on.

“I felt that being a family business, the whole team care about the quality of service and product they provide and are invested in each project.”

Matt Jones, Director, Witley Jones Furniture, went on to say,“This is the first time we have been asked to fit out a science laboratory in an Octagonal room which created a challenge in itself. With good planning alongside the school, architect and contractor, we overcame all problems and are very proud of the results. Thank you to Bob Pearce and Pipers Corner School for allowing us to be a part of this exciting project.”

 

Lichfield Cathedral School

 Lichfield Cathedral School is a coeducational independent day school in Staffordshire who are undergoing a period of expansion which led them to require an additional science laboratory.

Our team received the enquiry for the science laboratory furniture two weeks before the start of the Summer holiday, with the view to complete the project for the beginning of the new academic school year.

Dave Manser visited the school the following day to meet with David Brown, Bursar, and his colleagues to discuss their requirements.

Before starting the project, the school had looked through our portfolio of laboratory refurbishments and had spoken with our customers at Oswestry School and Bromsgrove School.

We needed to be innovative when it came to using the space available due to the make-up of the estate being within the historic Cathedral Close.

The room itself was very narrow so we manufactured tables to accommodate the width of the room. We needed to accommodate 24 pupils and give the teacher a large demonstration area and desk.

We used Trespa worktops throughout, which we recommend as standard in our laboratory installations due to their durability. Also, the school required 2 sinks with lockable storage underneath, as well as open storage units, double door cupboards and trays.

As is standard practice with our science laboratory furniture, we used lab-specific hardware including the taps, Vulcathene waste kits and bottle traps. Each sink, again as standard, is made from epoxy resin which withstands most chemicals.

We were able to manufacture and install the laboratory furniture within the summer holiday period. As with all laboratory installations, coordination with other trades and the customer is key to ensure services are in the correct position and the programme of works run smoothly

“The execution of the project was excellent, it was a positive experience without any fuss. Witley Jones have done a fantastic job given the tight timescale and specification.

There have only been positive comments from teachers and students using the room.” commented David Brown, Bursar, Lichfield Cathedral School.

 

Derby High School

During the summer months, we completed a biology laboratory project at Derby High School as part of an ongoing refurbishment programme following on from a physics laboratory we completed for them in 2016.

The project consisted of changing the layout of the furniture, moving the utilities and changing the dynamic of the teaching space.

They now teach the longer wall which helped to create the space to put up walls for the new office space.

We worked with the school to design and manufacture furniture for a dedicated office for teaching staff and lab technicians.

“The new lab design has really changed the experience of teaching biology. The room is designed perfectly for our needs, suiting theory and practical lessons equally well, and feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive!” commented Head of Science, Derby High School.

The fixed student benches were favoured from photos the school had seen of a similar project at Priors Field School which we completed in 2016 and 2017.

The cupboards beneath the desks allow for storage of apparatus on one side of the benching with seating space the other side facing the teaching wall.

All benches incorporated gas and electrics so that the majority of experiments could be carried out at the desks. Trespa worktops were used throughout for the student and perimeter benches.

The biology team were keen to have space to display experiments and work so we therefore designed and manufactured glass fronted display cabinets.

“Witley Jones were accommodating throughout the project, we gave them various different ideas which they took on board.

The people installing the lab over the summer were very pleasant and it all went pretty much to schedule.  Witley Jones have also been very responsive to any issues we have had and the follow up to the job has been good.” commented Senior Lab Technician.

We also designed a bag storage unit for students to put their belongings in during lessons, so they are not a trip hazard around the laboratory.

Witley Direct Sponsor Boxing Day Tractor Run 2018

Witley Direct were delighted to sponsor the 2018 Boxing Day Tractor Run in Bewdley, in aid of local charities which raised over £2000.

Witley Direct, a sub-division of Witley Jones Furniture, design, manufacture and install bespoke furniture for the home, including home office, fitted bedroom and storage furniture.

After hearing of the Tractor Run, Wiltey Direct decided to sponsor this great event, which was a huge success.

In aid of the Kidderminster and Worcestershire Prostate Awareness Group and Rory the Robot, the turn out on the day was amazing and it was great to see support from local people, the participants and their friends and family.

The Kidderminster and Worcestershire Prostate Awareness Group is a registered charity, raising awareness and promoting the importance of the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test.

Rory the Robot is an appeal that was launched by the Worcestershire Acute Hospital NHS Charitable Fund in 2014, to raise money towards the cost of a state of the art robotic surgical system, which will be primarily used to treat patients with prostate cancer across Worcestershire. In the county, there are between 125-150 radical prostate cancer operations carried out each year.

Prostate cancer claims the life of one man every hour, so every donation to these amazing charities really does help to save lives and truly make a difference.

Witley Direct were over the moon to be able to sponsor the Tractor Run, in aid of such amazing local charities and it was great to see the Witley Direct banners on the route along the river in Bewdley and on the lead Tractor.

Nicky Langford, Fundraising Officer at Rory the Robot Appeal, made the following comments about the day: “There was a great turn out of people and the event was a huge success!  The total collected with entry fees and bucket collections was £2287.74 – which is amazing! We’d like to say a massive thank to you Witley Direct for sponsoring the Tractor Run”.

Simon Downes, Managing Director, Witley Jones Furniture, commented, “The importance of mens health is a topic that we are fully aware of at Witley Direct. We were proud to support such a great event that raises awareness of prostrate cancer as well as vital funds for the charities involved. We are looking forward to building our relationship with Rory the Robot Appeal during 2019.”

Importance of Colour in Learning Environments

In the past the main focus for classroom furniture was functionality, but now colours and design are considered of equal importance for schools when they are looking at their facilities and specifying furniture.

We have worked with schools and educational establishments of all sizes, from both the state and independent sector: a common trend we have seen in recent years is the increased use of colour.

So with this in mind, what colours do you currently have within your classrooms, and have you considered the effect these colours could be having on your students?

How colours can affect learning and mood

It is important that when choosing the colours for your classrooms and teaching spaces, that you consider this impact to ensure you are creating a space that is effective and that your students will enjoy being in that environment.

Warm colours

Reds, oranges and yellows are vibrant, happy and lively colours, but they should be limited when used within a learning environment as they can be overstimulating.

For example, red is a very vibrant and intense colour which can become overwhelming, so this colour should mainly be used as an accent within the classroom.

On the other hand, the colour yellow is associated with happiness and creativity, making it the ideal colour to use within art rooms or student social rooms.

 

Cool colours

Blues, purples and greens are all colours that promote a calm and relaxed atmosphere, making these colours ideal for environments where concentration is key and the focus is more on completing challenging tasks.

 

White

White is a great colour for schools that are limited on space, as this colour reflects light which helps to make a room feel bigger.

One advantage of white is that you can have furniture manufactured with magnetic whiteboard frontages so that the surfaces can be written on with drywipe pens and used to mount display materials with magnets.

 

How to incorporate colour within your classroom

One way that you can incorporate colour within your school and classrooms is through your furniture.

The most common request we receive in terms of colour is from schools looking to match their furniture to their school colours or department / subject colours.

Furniture and colours can also be used to separate a room for different activities, for example to create a reading area, a play corner and a learning area all within the same room.

At Witley Jones, we are delighted to offer bespoke services, meaning that we can design and manufacture any piece of furniture in any colour that you wish.

Jim Turner: Inspiration behind Kings Hawford Library Bus

Jim Turner, Head Teacher at Kings Hawford School in Worcester, talks to us about the inspiration behind this Summer’s innovative project – converting a double decker bus into a school library.

Shortage of space is a common problem across school estates and at Kings Hawford we are no different.

We were looking to create a dedicated library space within the school for the students to use and learn to read.

As we lacked space in the main school building, we began to explore ideas to construct something in the outdoor space. The school could easily have gone for a wooden building which could have been erected in the grounds but we really wanted an exciting and engaging facility that the children wanted to be in when learning to read.

I had come across schools in London that had converted double decker buses and read an article online that documented how a school had converted one into a library.

My ambition from the start was to create something that made a statement and stood out – I thought that a double decker bus would certainly make that statement!

The school didn’t want a typical library that didn’t have personality or wasn’t inviting.

What better way to do it than converting a double decker?

After looking into the idea in a little more detail to assess if it was affordable and practical there was on only one option for our library.

How will the School use the Library Bus?

The Library Bus is a space for all students and year groups to use. For the younger children the most important thing is that it is a place to sit and be read to. A great space to take part in an adventure, a journey.

Older children are able to go in there independently, pick up a book, sit on the front seat of the top deck and look out. This is something I used to do when I was young –  only the bus was moving.

Converting a Bus into a Library

Matt Jones worked closely with us to shape the project and the team at Witley Jones grasped the idea and concept immediately.

It was essential that the design needed to be in-keeping with the bus and it still identified as something you would see on the streets of the capital. We didn’t just want to put shelves in and call it a Library Bus.

The attention to detail and ability to create the desired environment has really made the project a success. Even down to taking the colours of the seating into account when designing the shelving and storage, creating a warm and distinct feel to the bus.

The bespoke design of the furniture and installation was a seamless process. Having worked with them previously we knew that they were a professional local company with a great reputation.

Kings Hawford celebrate opening of double decker bus library

Kings Hawford, Worcester, celebrated the opening of their converted double decker bus library at the beginning of the school year.

The school had partnered with Stourport based furniture manufacturer, Witley Jones Furniture, to design and convert the London Transport red bus into a dedicated space for pupils to learn to read.

The aim of head teacher, Jim Turner, was to create a space that made a statement outside of the main school building. After hearing about similar projects, Jim decided on bringing the double decker bus to Worcestershire to repurpose into an exciting and interactive environment.

Jim Turner, Head of King’s Hawford, said, “For the younger children the most important thing is that it is a place to sit and be read to. A great space to take part in an adventure, a journey.They especially liked going upstairs to choose their books and enjoying the view from the top seats. The bus puts reading at the heart of our school.”

It was essential that the design needed to be in-keeping with the bus. We didn’t just want to put shelves in and call it a Library Bus. Witley Jones Furniture  worked closely with us to shape the project; the team at Witley Jones grasped the idea and concept immediately.”

During the Summer months, bespoke seating, shelving and tables were designed and installed throughout the vehicle in time for the grand opening at the beginning of the Summer term.

“We are delighted to have been invited to work on such an innovative project for a school that is local to us in Worcestershire. Converting a double decker bus is certainly a unique project that we hadn’t encountered before, it was important that the interior and furniture was in-keeping with the bus and colour scheme where possible.” Commented Matt Jones, Director, Witley Jones Furniture.