Realising Participatory Design With Children and Young People: A Case Study of Design and Refurbishment In Schools

Andree Woodcock, J. Horton, O. den Besten, P. Adey, Michelle Newman, Matt Kinross, P. Kraftl

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    The UK government is currently engaged in a series of large school (re)building and refurbishment schemes. The best known of these – Building Schools for the Future (BSF) – will see the refurbishment of every secondary school in England by 2020. As in other school rebuilding programmes in the UK, the participation of stakeholders (and especially pupils) is positioned as a key part of the design process within this policy agenda. This project sought to explore the extent to which diverse pupils in different kinds of school (primary, secondary, special educational needs) were given opportunities to participate in school design,
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDesigning for the 21st Century - Volume 2: Interdisciplinary Methods and Findings
    EditorsTom Inns
    Place of PublicationFarnham: Surrey
    ISBN (Print)978-1-4094-0240-4
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010

    Bibliographical note

    Author's note: This output is a review of the work conducted by the AHRC Design for the 21st century , 2 year funded project looking at the extent to which pupil’s were involved in the consultation process of new school builds (i.e. those occurring in the Building Schools for the Future programme). A number of national and international publications were produced as well as workshops for schools, children and other stakeholders, and the distribution of over 3000 guides for architects and schools engaged in the BSF or pupil consultation process. A list of some of the outputs can be found on
    The work connects closely to the model of educational ergonomics reported in output 3. The implicit assumption being that schools are designed for children; they should be designed taking the needs of children into account; and that children should be consulted as part of the design process.
    The need for pupil participation was emphasised in all BSF projects. This collaborative project (between Coventry and Northampton Universities) investigated the extent to which this occurred through direct observations and interviews with key stakeholders- architects, teachers, children and LEA officials in and around the Midlands and inspection of documentation.
    The project found widespread evidence of poor consultation practice, exacerbated by an overcomplicated, drawn out design process where the voice of children was lost, and very small opportunities for pupils to influence design. Teachers were consulted less than their pupils. The decisions made at stakeholder consultation events were not recorded and pupils not fully informed about the deign brief, so may be led to produce unrealistic designs. Consultation in some instances was in the form of an escorted tour of the buildings by the architects.
    Woodcock and Kraftl were PIs on the project, having met at an Ergonomics for Schools conference organised by Woodcock. The interdisciplinary approach instigated by Woodcock resulted in a cross over between ergonomics and cultural geography (geographies of young people). This has led to an acceptance of more diverse qualitative methods in the ergonomics community; a recognition that young children can talk with authority and understanding about places they inhabit. Two successful postgraduate completions (MRes and PhD) were associated with this project.


    • school design
    • school refurbishment


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