Connecting people, places and learning

Working collaboratively to design learning estates for Scotland's new generation of learners.

Pupils and teachers walking through a hallway in Kingsland Primary School. There are brightly coloured chairs near the window on the right.

At Architecture and Design Scotland we believe that design has the power to bring people together and make better places for everyone. This belief extends towards educational places and seeing first-hand how people in well-designed environments receive a positive experience throughout their academic and vocational journey.   

We are currently supporting the Scottish Government and collaborating with Scottish Futures Trust to help anyone involved in design proposals for learning estates across Scotland by sharing our learning, co-ordinating advice and supporting local authorities. 

Only by working together can we create learning environments that will help improve the lives of Scotland’s learners. 

Our work on learning estates

As part of our goal of seeing the benefits of the Place Principle become an everyday reality to the way Scotland’s places are created, adapted and sustained, we’ve pulled together specific resources that focuses on improving learning estates. 

You can read about some of the projects we’ve been a part of to date. Work that has enabled us to inspire and support those involved in designing and shaping our learning estates. 

Our Shared Learning Toolkit

The spaces we work and learn in play a huge part in shaping our mental health, happiness, and ability to learn. How can the room we work in make a lesson better or more inspiring?

Our Shared Learning toolkit will help guide you and your pupils step-by-step on a collaborative mission to find the answers. 

View resource
A wooden structure inside a school where primary school pupils sit on the floor as part of a lesson.

Supporting the strategy through participation and placemaking

We support conversations around needs and ambitions by including learners, teachers and communities in participation methods for co-designing learning environments.  

This process allows all of us to see a bigger picture of what to connect, how to connect it and what form the built environment should include to accommodate these connections.  

And we do this through the Inspiring Learning Spaces Toolkit.

Image credit: Martin Shields

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 Teachers discussing a model floorplan of their school during a Tests of Change workshop and shifting walls around the walls.

Tests of Change

Tests of change is a process that trials out new ways of working for creating learning spaces. It’s a process that requires us to engage with learners and teachers to highlight issues and opportunities that arise within a learning environment.  

During this process we aim to: 

  • Develop a culture of testing to inform investment and approaches to designing spaces 
  • Enhance teaching and learning environments 

We use the following methods for our Tests of Change process

Consulting with school leaders and teachers to establish the scope of practice change and identify issues and opportunities. 

Involving learners and teachers in workshop participation (space hacks) to trial temporary spatial solutions. 

Highlighting observations and findings from the space hack to help inform investment opportunities.

A young girl in a hijab presenting her work in a workshop to a group of people. A red canopy in the park is presented on the screen behind her.

Design advice for schools

Design advice for schools provides support to education authorities, schools and anyone who is involved in briefing stage of school investments and design. To facilitate change for your learning estate, this can include: 

  • external view 
  • peer support  
  • facilitation 
  • learning networks  
  • resources  

Image credit: Miss Lydia Photography

Looking down towards the ground floor exterior of Kingsland Primary School. Pupils and teachers are walking on the pavement next to the stone and wood façade building.

Applying the Learning Estate Strategy to our work

Delivered by the government, the Learning Estate Strategy (LES) aims to improve outcomes for communities by connecting people, place and learning through its guiding principles. 

We apply the LES to our work to help improve education investment, manage the transition of the learning experience and empower individuals within the learning community. 

Image credit: Paul Zanre

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Support for the learning estate - how we can help

Tackling the climate emergency is central to Scotland’s Learning Estate Strategy. The Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP) aims to deliver digitally enabled, low-carbon (new and refurbished) schools and campuses that are inclusive and welcoming places which meet the needs of the whole community.  

How we can help

We know that there are many challenges for those who plan, design, and deliver our places, including:

  • tackling the climate emergency
  • achieving Net Zero emissions
  • addressing inequalities in health and wellbeing
  • supporting inclusive economic stability

We are here to help local authorities, schools and communities to work together to achieve those goals. We are offering early-stage place planning and design support to education authorities, national partners and schools in Scotland at no cost.

We are here to help projects at an early-stage project to collaboratively identify and articulate design outcomes, contributing to the achievement of the priorities of the Learning Estate Strategy and the Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP)

  • design advice and support to education authorities to help briefing and option stages of school investment and design
  • use of the Designing for a Changing Climate: the eight principles of a carbon conscious place to frame discussions to identify inclusive Net Zero Economy Outcomes that supplement existing technical and environmental objectives to inform a project brief and evaluation framework
  • outdoor learning design advice informed by our current action research projects with Learning through Landscapes (Climate Ready School Grounds) and Queen Margaret University (Outdoor Learning Hub)
  • placemaking support for projects that are aiming to achieve design focused objectives of Net Zero Public Sector Building Standard (NZPSBS)

Header image credit: Paul Zanre

Related case studies

We have a collection of case studies that showcase well-designed educational spaces for schools across Scotland. Learn about what you can include for your learning estate from real-life examples.

A group of students sit and walk on a wide stair case inside a building

In-between spaces in further education

View case study
Learners socialising and studying on an indoor terrace. The terrace is a multipurpose wide set of stairs.

Social spaces in learning environments

View case study
A man wearing glasses sands down plaster at an engineering workshop at City of Glasgow College. The room overlooks the skyline.

STEM spaces in further education

View case study

Collaborating with learners and teachers for your learning environment

Seek out the voices of people that use your learning environment and let us guide you in the right direction. Depending on your unique design needs, our colleagues can help direct you to the best resources or provide advice for your learning estate project.

Get in touch