The MMC Awards recognise excellence in construction for projects utilising modern methods of construction. TG Escapes specialise in providing biophilic, net-zero buildings to the education sector. Following their success in the 2023 MMC awards (Project of the Year for the English Department at Ratcliffe College and Public Sector Innovation of the Year for their Biophilic School design), their classroom block at Brune Park was Highly Commended in the Secondary/Higher Education category and they were awarded Manufacturer of the Year for Category 2 Modular Panelised Systems.

TG Escapes provide bespoke, modular, timber frame system has been utilised for hundreds of school buildings including SEND facilities, classroom blocks, dining halls and drama studios. The biophilic approach ensures that these spaces are full of natural light and have easy access to the outdoors. The impact on students is pronounced, with a calming effect that helps to reduce stress and increase focus. They are particularly active within the SEND and SEMH fields, producing a range of specially designed spaces intended to benefit students with diverse needs.
They offer a turnkey approach to clients across the UK, designing, manufacturing, installing and finishing each building. Everything starts with a free site survey and bespoke design process, after which they provide a comprehensive fixed price covering every aspect of a new school building.

They offer several clear benefits to schools:

  • Stunning Bespoke Designs: The in-house team of architects and engineers is able to produce wholly bespoke designs to meet a school’s specific needs. The buildings are aesthetically beautiful and designed to blend seamlessly with existing structures and with natural surroundings. They can feature a variety of finishes from natural timber to brick or render.
  • Cost-Effective: Modern methods of construction offer cost savings at every stage, which are further enhanced by an in-house manufacturing and turnkey service. Streamlined offsite construction minimises waste, and quick onsite installation minimises labour. The buildings equal or better the performance of a traditional brick and mortar build at reliably lower prices.
  • Quick Installation: Components are delivered to a school site in a controlled manner and sensitive to the school’s timetable, which minimises disruption allowing education continuity. For smaller projects, time onsite can be as little as 8 weeks.
  • Biophilic Principles: TG Escapes has long been a proponent of biophilic design principles, emphasising a connection to nature with each of their buildings. They incorporate natural light, views of nature, physical access to the outdoors and advanced ventilation systems, all of which have a profound impact on stress, mental health, and even exam performance.
  • Net-Zero Design as Standard: Through a combination of energy-efficient materials, a fabric first approach, solar panels, advanced ventilation technology and expert design, they achieve net-zero in operation as standard and can also certify the buildings as lifetime net-zero if required.
  • Built For Long-Term Performance: Timber is one of the oldest and most sustainable building materials used throughout the millennia and still stands the test of time. These permanent buildings satisfy or exceed all regulatory compliance and TG Escapes are Gold Members of the Structural Timber Association and Platinum Members of Construction Line.
  • Turnkey Service: They cover everything from the initial design to the final handover of keys, for a single upfront price. This includes site preparation, all foundations, planning permission and service connections. Throughout the project, you will have a clear point of contact with their friendly team who will manage the project from start to finish.

With over 800 buildings UK wide they are dedicated to offering an unparalleled service to education clients, with an average score of 4.9 out of 5 from 189 customer reviews.

Mrs Gill Farmer, Trust Business Manager, said: “TG Escapes responded quickly to any questions or concerns we raised with them from the design stage to completion. They worked with us to ensure that the school could continue to operate safely whilst they were on site. Any issues that were raised with the site team were immediately addressed and they followed our school risk assessment. They made the experience far less stressful than we had anticipated. The project was delivered ahead of time to a high standard.”

For more information, call 0800 917 7726, email or visit

Edinburgh school could stay closed until Christmas as Coal Authority investigate

A primary school in Edinburgh could stay closed for at least four months as the Coal Authority continues to investigate whether a recent “sinkhole” that appeared on the site is linked to historical coal mining.

The small ground collapse at Brunstane Primary School was reported to the Coal Authority on 25 July. The school is in an area where the Coal Authority believes there is evidence of past coal mine workings.

The Coal Authority confirmed that it “quickly filled the hole with stone to stabilise the affected area and fenced off the site to keep people safe”, following the incident.

Since then the site has remained closed, and staff and pupils have been relocated to other schools in the local area ahead of the start of the school term.

In a letter to parents earlier this month, Brunstane Primary School headteacher Chris McMillian warned that he had “been told to prepare for the possibility of being out of the building until at least the Christmas holidays”.

While the school is closed, the Coal Authority is carrying out a detailed investigation to determine the cause of the ground collapse.

“If this incident was caused by historical coal mine workings, we will design a permanent solution and carry out repair works as soon as we can,” the Coal Authority’s public safety and subsidence team member Michael Owens said.

The BBC reported that issues with ground conditions – including the hole in the playground next to the main school building – were discovered because of planned redevelopment works at the school.

Brunstane Primary School is due to undergo energy retrofit works as part of a pilot project to target near net zero operational carbon emissions by 2035.

Earlier this month, the City of Edinburgh Council granted planning permission for development works at the school, including the installation of a new heating and ventilation system, an air source heat pump and mechanical ventilation with heat recovery.

Source: Ground Engineering

New comprehensive guide to specifying acoustic solutions for the residential and education sector

To support specifiers in selecting acoustic solutions for education and residential applications, ROCKWOOL® has launched ROCKWOOL SoundPro. The specialist guide combines technical data, product information and the latest regulatory advice in one place. aiding the specification of stone wool solutions for settings where sound insulation is key.

ROCKWOOL SoundPro outlines the importance and principles of good acoustic design and how to effectively enhance the acoustic capabilities of building projects. As noise pollution is now regarded as a public health problem that affects millions across the UK, the need for effective acoustic insulation in our buildings is more prevalent than ever. As such, ROCKWOOL SoundPro includes various strategies and functions that can reduce the amount of unwanted noise transfer through walls, floors or roofs.

Complementing these approaches are the latest ROCKWOOL solutions that provide acoustic benefits for each application area of the building, including internal wall solutions, façade and external wall solutions and flat roof solutions. ROCKWOOL SoundPro also outlines additional benefits of stone wool insulation beyond acoustics, including fire and thermal performance, as well as durability and indefinite recycling.

This guide also summarises acoustic regulations for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland with detail for both new and existing and residential and education settings.

“We created ROCKWOOL SoundPro as a comprehensive guide to help those working in the residential and education sectors specify acoustic solutions more easily,” said Will Wigfield, Product Manager at ROCKWOOL. “It is the newest technical resource from ROCKWOOL which will act as a point of reference for specifiers and architects, with everything they need accessible in one place.”

CLICK HERE For more information about ROCKWOOL SoundPro


Carter Jonas Achieves Planning Consent for a Sensory Garden for Best Futures School in Aylesby, Lincolnshire


National property consultancy Carter Jonas has secured planning consent on behalf of Best Futures School, a specialist nurture school in the Lincolnshire countryside, to develop a sensory garden.

Approval was granted by the Planning Committee of North East Lincolnshire Council on 26 April.

Best Futures School is a unique nurturing environment with an adapted curriculum and classrooms for small groups of children aged 5-11 years.

Pupils arrive at the school with a variety of learning difficulties or disabilities including ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), SLCN (Speech, Language and Communication Needs) and CI (Communication and Interaction needs). Through its bespoke approach, Best Futures significantly reduces barriers for pupils where a challenging mainstream curriculum has not been successful or an alternative special school is not appropriate. It aims to provide equal opportunity through education, enabling pupils to become successful learners, effective decision-making skills, with skills to make and sustain friendships, enhanced communication skills, increase self-esteem and achieve their own sense of belonging.

Calming and therapeutic, sensory gardens have been proven to improve engagement, communication, interaction, wellbeing and concentration levels and encourage independent exploration.

Best Futures’ new sensory garden will include a wildflower meadow; five raised beds for the growing of fruits and vegetables; a reading area with blankets and cushions, fold up chairs and sensory mats. Planting and resources will be adapted as the needs of the children change.

As part of the pupils’ curriculum and timetable, activities which will take place within the new garden will include, observing nature, mindfulness exercises, reading, outdoor art and gardening.

The sensory garden will extend and enhance the school’s external space by utilising an area of pasture within an agricultural field provided by David Spilman, of Aylesby Manor Farms. David together with his partner, Kittie Ford, a Partner at Carter Jonas, have supported the project from day one. In addition to providing the land, Kittie arranged for the majority of the planning and GIS work to be carried out on a pro bono basis.

Dawn Best, proprietor of Best Futures School commented,


“We are thrilled with the decision of the planning committee and the positive comments from the committee members, many of which commended our school for our positive work and for stepping forward with this planning application to enrich children lives. To be able to offer this amazing space for our pupils is just so exciting. Sensory gardens have a plethora of benefits; being able to hear the wind and sounds of the world will encourage pupils to practice mindfulness, instil calm and focus, to relax and enjoy the countryside setting. Spending more time outdoors, breathing fresh air, and being exposed to sunlight are extremely beneficial to the children’s overall physical health and emotional wellbeing. We are so appreciative of the support from the David Spilman, Kittie Ford, and John and Patricia Spilman, who have been so kind, understanding and supportive since our school was founded here 9 years ago. Also the kindness and determination of Frances Keenan at Carter Jonas who has provided direction, clarity and unwavering support, understanding our cause. With the extensive collaborative support and advocacy from everyone involved in making this happen, we have been able to secure a positive outcome which will make such a difference for our pupil’s opportunities, lives and life experiences, and we can’t thank everyone enough.”


David Spilman, director of Aylesby Manor Farms commented,

During a conversation with Dawn in 2021, I learnt that that the school had recently lost the use of their former garden which was a key facility for the children’s learning and development, and I was keen to help if we could. I have always enjoyed the sense of accomplishment from growing my own produce (‘field to fork’), and with my love for the countryside I am aware of the benefits a rural outdoor space would offer pupils of Best Futures school. A number of sites were considered before the decision was made to take this site forward, but it works well as it is in close proximity to the school, suitable in size and its surroundings, and importantly the land is south facing. We are thrilled that the application has been approved; it is an excellent project which will provide significant benefits to the children that use it. We were pleased that the application was so well and positively received by the planning committee who really embraced this concept.”


Frances Keenan, Senior Planner at Carter Jonas in Birmingham steered the planning application through the application process and committee, overcoming a number of technical matters such as the historic sensitivity of the adjacent Grade I Listed St Lawrence Church and safeguarding neighbouring residential amenity. She commented,

We were very pleased to have the opportunity to support this very worthwhile planning application and to see it welcomed so positively by the Planning Committee. Best Futures makes an incalculable difference to the lives of many local children and the provision of the sensory garden will extend its benefits substantially.”


Cllr Tim Mickleburgh supported the planning application at the planning committee meeting. He says

“I think it is an excellent scheme, I was happy to provide full support.”

Photograph accreditation: ALEX STYLES | PHOTOGRAPHY


Zumtobel and its sister brand Thorn, both lighting brands of the Zumtobel Group, worked with The University of Leeds Estates team, BAM, Arup and Silcock Leedham to devise a cutting-edge lighting scheme supported with the use of cleverly integrated emergency lighting powered by its CPS Central Battery to ease maintenance.


The project’s backbone is the emergency lighting, powered by Zumtobel’s CPS central battery system.

The CPS adapts to suit both the project and the customer requirements – as and when necessary, helping the estate’s team identify faulty luminaires and ensuring continued safe lighting conditions for students and staff.

The emergency lighting scheme consists of Zumtobel’s PURESIGN exit signage, fusing functionality with an elegant design.

Zumtobel’s RESCLITE PRO’s innovative optics meet all the emergency lighting requirements, combining minimalist design with the highest technical standards.

In addition, Zumtobel’s MIREL evo, LINCOR DI, AMPHIBIA, PANOS evo, and SLOTLIGHT Infinity light the complete facility from the laboratories and teaching rooms to the bathrooms and circulation areas. The Thorn portfolio illuminates the back-of-house areas, including Glacier II, Force LED, Novaline, and Omega Pro.

The lighting solution is controlled via the DALI protocol with LITENET Lighting Controls. Daylight dimming is implemented using Skyscanner, increasing efficiency and keeping energy costs to the minimum.



David Oldroyd, Interim Deputy Director of Development, University of Leeds, said: “The Bragg Building required lighting for a diverse range of spaces and to meet various needs. As we work towards our campus being Net Zero by 2030, we also needed a low-energy solution. Zumtobel and Thorn were able to meet all of these criteria and provide a great design.”

CLICK HERE For further information on the featured products





Milton Keynes has recently welcomed a new intake of students to its first-ever fossil-free school. The completely gas-free all-years facility also uses the latest LED luminaires to keep harvested energy use to the minimum, creating a modern, green learning environment in the heart of the community. 


Our reliance on gas, oil and coal is wreaking havoc on the natural environment. If we don’t accelerate the transition to clean energy now, our climate goals will no longer be achievable. If factories, businesses, schools, hospitals, homes, and transportation switch to clean energy sources, they’re not just saving the environment; they’re saving resources and gaining independence from a volatile energy market.


A perfect example is the innovative newly built Glebe Farm School in the parish of Wavendon in the South East of Milton Keynes.


An all-through school with 1,569 school places for pupils aged 5 to 16, a nursery and a workplace for 170 staff members, Glebe Farm School is located on an area larger than 13 football pitches at the heart of a new community.


The school is the city’s first fossil-free new build school – even its Bunsen burners are powered by green electricity, funded and developed by Milton Keynes City Council with building works carried out by Morgan Sindall Construction and Munro Building Services.


The whole site has been designed to have a minimal environmental impact and will provide access to high-quality facilities for the local community. 


Completely gas-free, it uses air source heat pumps which absorb heat from the outside air and provide all the energy needed for air and hot water. All lighting comes from ultra-efficient LED luminaires from TRILUX Lighting, whilst hundreds of solar panels generate power for the building.


TRILUX luminaires are found throughout the building. The scheme focuses on the diverse needs of pupils, students, and teachers; and covers the complete spectrum of educational applications from the classrooms to the sports hall. The low-energy design uses a mix of Siella, Amatris, AgiraPlus, Arimo Fit, 74RS, Finea, Skeo Curv, Mirona Fit Sports, Oleveon Fit, ERP and Lutera C luminaires.


TRILUX LED luminaires also score highly from an operational point of view, protecting education budgets and the environment with low power consumption and maintenance costs. 



Michael Guppy, Preconstruction Manager, Munro Building Services, comments, “We have been using Trilux products for over ten years now, the quality of the fittings is excellent. Using one manufacturer for projects like this allows the scheme to be workable throughout the project and assists the end user, as they only have to go to TRILUX for any additions or replacements. We find working with TRILUX helps us deliver an overall project solution.”



It’s been estimated that green energy could save this school up to £100,000 a year. Since completion, the school has become a national benchmark for future school buildings.

CLICK HERE For further information on TRILUX’s educational lighting



Zumtobel together with its sister brand Thorn, both lighting brands of the Zumtobel Group, worked with BDP to deliver a collection of standard and custom luminaires for the newly refurbished London Southbank University Hub (LSBU Hub).


The London Southbank University recently embarked on its most extensive and exciting environment transformation programme. Designed to affect how students and staff think, feel and study, the renovated facility is set to revolutionise the student experience.

With the modernisation of the learning spaces and technology, the new LSBU Hub will be fit for the future and serve the needs of generations of students, staff and the wider LSBU community. The goal was to create dedicated zones for learning, teaching, and staff by renovating the 1970s building and making better use of its current spaces across the whole campus.

The refurbished building includes a new 3000sqm library, teaching rooms, offices, lecture theatres, fitness and sports facilities, informal learning spaces, student support and catering facilities.

Architect Wilkinson Eyre and BDP’s lighting and building services consultants were quickly appointed. The project team also consisted of Winters Electrical Services and Wilmott Dixon Interiors as the main contractor.

To meet the demands of this project, BDP sought a lighting manufacturer with a broad, high-performance range of standard luminaires and the ability to engineer custom luminaires for specialised applications. Zumtobel together with its sister brand Thorn were selected for their technical competence and excellent all-round product offer.

The approach to the lighting design process was to complement the architecture with minimal intervention and ensure bright soffits – particularly in areas where daylight is low. The result is a considered and understated lighting scheme which seeks to reveal the interior forms and finishes at their optimal brightness.



Luke Smith-Wightman, design consultant for BDP, explains,


“The LSBU Hub project is a refurbishment of a 1970s structure featuring concrete waffle slabs throughout the building. The slabs are exposed in many spaces and now form an integral part of the lighting strategy – in combination with a custom luminaire engineered by Zumtobel – STRATUS. The STRATUS linear suspension luminaire delivers purely indirect, neutral-white light to the slabs from a very slim aluminium profile. This creates an enhanced perception of spaciousness and, through interreflection, provides the required illumination in the spaces where it is used. The lit effect is calm and blends well with daylight, with excellent light uniformity to walls, soffits, and floors.”



Ed Haslett, Key Account Manager, Zumtobel Group, adds, “We worked closely with the site team as the coordination of the multiple lengths and runs required a combined effort to ensure we delivered the perfect solution.”


In addition to STRATUS, the comprehensive scheme includes Zumtobel’s PANOS infinity downlights, SLOTLIGHT infinity slim continuous rows and the striking ONDARIA pendants in the breakout areas and meeting rooms.

Luke explains, “The theme of linear lighting is continued with integrated SLOTLIGHT infinity slim continuous lines of light framing the library spaces, the main atrium and lighting the bookshelves. PANOS infinity downlights project warm-white light into the library areas, illuminating the spaces without disrupting the bold, wood-clad geometry of the library ceilings.”


Furthermore, PERLUCE luminaires light the stairways and the classic all-rounder TUBILUX lights the fitness suite. RESCLITE PRO provides emergency lighting, while Thorn’s Omega Pro2 has been used for the lecture halls and Aquaforce in the back-of-house and plant areas.


For more information on Zumtobel, please CLICK HERE

and for Thorn CLICK HERE



Jonathon Hunter Hill

Product Manager – AirMaster SMVs


In most Romance languages, the word for insulation translates directly as isolation. On the road to Net Zero, one of the UK’s primary challenges is to cut heat loss from buildings by isolating the inside from the outside. Increases in air tightness, and reductions in U-values and thermal bridging, will continue to reduce heat loss from buildings. But the increased air tightness creates a particular problem: we are aiming to eliminate natural air exchange between indoors and outdoors to reduce heat loss, cutting the primary method of ventilation that the UK has long relied upon.

Ventilation is required to maintain good indoor air quality in buildings, whether it be reducing the humidity to prevent damp and mould, or to minimise CO2 levels to prevent inhibition of brain function. This creates a different problem: by extracting air from buildings, we also extract heat, which must then be made up from other sources. This is a vicious circle in that we have reduced heat loss through natural air exchange, but may incur heat loss through mechanical ventilation. In buildings with relatively low occupancy densities, such as domestic environments, a low rate of air change per hour (ACH-1) is required, for example 2-4 ACH-1 for living rooms. But in buildings with relatively high occupancy densities, such as offices and schools, the ventilation rate required to maintain good indoor air quality is 4-6 ACH-1, so a great deal of heat can be lost.

The UK has long been in the habit of using natural ventilation for buildings, but Net Zero put paid to that. The solution is to recover the heat from the air using mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR). In Europe, this is the de facto ventilation solution for new buildings. Indeed, in European deep refurbishments and new builds this is typically a legal requirement. MVHR extracts stale air from rooms, passing it through a heat exchanger. At the same, fresh air is drawn in from outside and is passed through the heat exchanger, the two pathways being separated by a hydraulic break. Heat flows from hot to cold, so the stale air deposits its heat into the heat exchanger, which is picked up by the colder fresh air, warming it before it enters the room. This can reduce heat demand by up to 90%.

When it comes to the UK’s new build schools, in the School Output Specification (Technical Annex 2H: Energy) the Department for Education has set minimum energy intensity targets of 52 / 67 kWh/m2 (primary and special educational needs / secondary schools respectively). The Output Specification indicates that heating should comprise 8 kWh/m2 of this target. Heat load (heat loss), therefore, must be absolutely minimal in order to meet this criterion. Using natural, hybrid, or mixed mode ventilation solutions, this target simply will not be met. It can only be achieved using MVHR, and MVHR with a low specific fan power (SFP) at that.

Factoring in both electrical consumption, heat demand associated with ventilation, fabric losses, and internal gains, a classroom with decentralized MVHR will have a heat load of approximately 600 kWh/year. Comparatively, a classroom with the best hybrid solution would have a heat load of approximately 3,500 kWh/year. This is a factor of six different, entirely due to heat recovery, which in this case will recover approximately 84% of the classroom’s heat. (

In many cases, schools are being designed to use air source heat pumps combined with solar PV panels for generation. If we assume that the heat pump has an SCOP of 3.2 and that PV covers and average of 50% of the building’s electricity demand, the performance gap narrows. However, the outstanding heat load is still approximately a factor of five times higher when using hybrid ventilation as opposed to decentralized MVHR. The result of a reduced heat load is a reduced requirement for both heat plant and renewable energy generation, resulting in net lower lifecycle carbon emissions and may result in lower capital costs.

In specifying ventilation units of any type, I strongly encourage designers to consider not only the electrical energy, but also the heat loss associated with the type of ventilation considered; to take a holistic approach to ventilation. MVHR inevitably has a higher electrical demand, but will slash the building’s heat demand.

When we consider the building fabric to meet our Net Zero goals, it is essential that we consider minimising heat loss through ventilation as a core element of said fabric. This will only be achieved with good quality MVHR if we are to satisfy the requirements for energy intensity and the indoor air quality. With the rise in energy prices, we must reconsider CAPEX vs OPEX. We can learn a great deal from the more mature energy markets of Europe.


At Glasdon, we have over 60 years’ experience in designing, manufacturing and supplying essential products which can improve spaces, enhance site safety and help to support waste management systems.


Litter Bins

Glasdon produce an extensive range of litter bins to help ensure that students, staff and visitors dispose of their litter correctly. Our bins can be personalised to match your establishment’s colours and even branded with your crest or logo.


Recycling Bins

Improve recycling facilities with the Glasdon range of recycling bins. Select from single-, dual- or multi-stream containers to best accommodate your needs.



Add comfort and style to your environment with our traditional and contemporary seats which can be used both indoors and outdoors.


Picnic Tables

We offer a selection of high-quality recycled picnic tables which are highly durable and low maintenance.




By Graeme Shaw, Technical Director at Zumtobel Group


The Institute of Education found that the quality of our primary school years is more important on academic progress in later life than gender or family background.

An incubator for the next generation of leaders, thinkers and innovators, the environment in which we learn has been evidenced to affect motivation, happiness, achievement and success of students.

Which begs the question why there is not more focus on our learning environments.

Within our current school systems (designed by politicians), teachers are forced to spend the majority of their time focussing on the preparation and drilling of children for tests, an approach that is squeezing the creativity and joy out of learning, at the expense of all else.

Primary students spend over 7,000 hours at school (by the end of their 6th grade), most of which in a single classroom designed before the development of dynamic lighting and digital technologies such as smart boards and tablets.

In the past (and even present) teachers have been known to use workarounds to overcome poor lighting (known to cause headaches, eyestrain and fatigue), hanging light shades of varying colours over fluorescents to try and create the best learning environment for their students.

While we may have a newfound appreciation for education settings – sparked by the pandemic, remote learning and the pain of juggling teaching alongside working from home, most are still unaware of the significant underfunding in the sector.

Cuts that have led to half of all public school teachers nationally seriously considering leaving the profession[1] due to underfunded dilapidated school buildings, crowded classrooms and poor pay.

While there are admittedly bigger problems – run-down school buildings which in some cases are structurally unsound, the good news, for the buildings we can save, is that simple changes in how we light our classrooms can bring significant benefits – beyond the simple energy savings needed to navigate the energy crisis.

Graeme Shaw, Technical Director at Zumtobel Group, shares his thoughts on Government underspending and how good lighting can improve our early years learning, concentration, engagement, health and performance!

Where are we going wrong?


Education is the second-largest element of public service spending in the UK (behind health), but it still only represents 4.5% of national income[2]. That’s in comparison to Denmark which spends 7.3 % of GDP, Sweden at 7.1 %, and Norway at 6.9 %[2].

Pre-pandemic, total spending stood at £104 billion (4.4% GDP). 8% lower than in 2010-11, when it represented 5.6%[3] with only a tiny proportion of that budget allocated to maintaining campuses (11.4%), and an even smaller proportion allocated to lighting[1].

While the Government has clearly recognised this needs to be addressed: the Prime Minister announced the School Rebuilding Programme (SRP) in June 2020, which is set to deliver over 500 rebuilds and refurbishments and provide “modern purpose-built schools designed for 21st-century learning” over the next decade. Does it go far enough?

If recent news is anything to go by. Potentially not.

The Guardian[1] recently shared that a staggering 83% of school leaders do not believe they have sufficient capital funding to maintain their buildings and facilities. With teachers complaining of leaking ceilings, broken heating, inadequate ventilation, and no money to fix problems.

The findings, from a 1,500-strong survey of leaders conducted by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), comes just months after a government-commissioned study found that the repair bill for state schools in England had ballooned to £11bn (including over £2.5bn for electrical and IT repairs, £2bn on “mechanical services” such as air conditioning and boilers, and £1.8bn on external walls, windows and doors).

With heads blaming a decade of austerity, the likes of which not seen in post-war UK history, Local authorities’ tight financial positions have only been exacerbated by the pandemic and that’s without adding rising energy costs into the mix.

With school budgets being hammered it’s perhaps no wonder that the Government’s focus is on saving money – which LED lighting (through energy reduction) certainly delivers. However, we believe this has led to a focus on the ‘hard environment’ – achieving ultra- efficient spaces: a focus on lux and lumens and JUST meeting the standard, while achieving the maximum energy savings. And not where it should be focussed. Lighting for the benefit of people.


Why this is wrong


Classrooms are currently designed to provide a uniform distribution of light. In the absence of natural light, or insufficient natural light a minimum illuminance of 300 lux (0.6 uniformity, UGR19 and Ra 80) is widely regarded as suitable for general tasks – designed to fulfil the requirements of BS EN 12464-1. Typically provided by recessed luminaires. But, based on what research?


The simple lighting regulation standards, which are now woefully out of date, define only the minimum task area illuminance levels, and by that, the minimum amount of light required by law – which is still very low.

Neither classrooms or the lighting within are currently being designed for the rapidly changing activities associated with the different pedagogical approaches used in teaching today.

Remember how many hours are spent within one classroom… one room – used for reading, writing, art.  What the standards do not currently take into consideration are the softer aspects of lighting and the fundamental role it plays in environment creation.


Light for balanced learning and comfort


There is a growing body of research that evidences the power of connecting light and people.

In a well-lit classroom, with individual control of environmental factors, students are found to be more relaxed, not as sleepy, and more motivated to learn.


We believe there are 4 key considerations:

  1. Light intensity
  • Uniform appearance
  • Constant luminous flux in all colour temperatures
  • Perfect colour consistency between systems and luminaires (MacAdams SDCM 3-4)
  • Comfortable dimming
  1. Direction of light
  2. Colour
  • Tunable white, with a variable colour temperature from 2700 K to 6500 K, CRI >90
  • Increasing the blue component for an activating atmosphere
  • Increasing the red component for a calming atmosphere
  1. Time
  • The right atmosphere at the right time
  • Artificial light complements and is subordinate to daylight


Through standard lighting we can provide visual comfort, if consideration is given to glare and contrast but with holistic integrations of lighting concepts such as:


  • Limbic lighting – we can also provide emotional comfort

Light that supports dynamic learning activities by quickly adapting the atmosphere. The “polarisation of attention” as defined by pioneering educator Maria Montessori – states that playful abandon and complete immersion in the task – can be supported by environmental conditions. Positive emotions support the joy of discovering and learning, thus helping people to learn successfully.

  • Limbic lighting within buildings has a holistic influence on people: physical, psychological and social
  • Architecture requires user participation
  • For sensory experiences (wellbeing)


  • Human Centric Lighting (HCL) – we can stimulate biological responses for improved health

In addition to daylight, HCL promotes the activation and regeneration of students

and teachers. The right lighting situation at the right time supports natural physical processes throughout the day. Our inner clock is stabilised and the quality of sleep is improved. For healthy and active learning.

This is in comparison to the world-renowned Nordic education system (and some parts of the US), who spend more (higher taxation means schools are better-funded), while importantly, being less target-driven and more child-centred. Having introduced human-centric concepts such as Hygge (pronounced hue-guh not hoo-gah), which means to create an environment that helps students relax, find comfort, be together and be inspired to learn.

A concept our UK universities, as businesses, understand – as they are in direct competition with one another to attract pupils.

In the pressure to meet targets, have we therefore forgotten what a privilege – and a responsibility it is to shape the environment for our future generations?

Lighting to JUST meet a standard is not enough. Not when we know that lighting quality has a direct influence on students’ learning performance and even test scores.

The impact of classroom design on pupils learning


The former Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson recently stated that: “The environment children are taught in makes such an enormous difference to their education”[4].

So, what do good ‘modern purpose-built’ classrooms look like?

Perhaps the most relevant research in this area is the Sin Paradigm (which stands for naturalness, individuality and stimulation) by Professor Peter Barrett, which studied the connection between the physical design of primary schools and academic progress.

The study[5], dating back to 2013 (but still very relevant today), of 153 classrooms, 27 schools and three and a half thousand pupils focussed on 7 key design parameters: Light, Temperature, Air Quality, Ownership, Flexibility, Complexity and Colour. It found that the impact of building design, especially light, temperature and air quality has a significant impact, around 50%, on pupils’ learning outcomes.


What we know


Children’s eyes let in more light than adults, are more permeable to both ultraviolet and blue light, and are more sensitive to glare.

Children have higher sensitivity to light because they have smaller pupils and less melatonin suppression than adults, affecting their sleep/wake cycles and circadian rhythm (our 24-hour internal clock).

Cases of myopia (short-sightedness) have more than doubled in the past 50 years and now affect one in six children in the UK by the age of 15. Most likely to occur between the ages of 6 and 13, more research is needed on why we’ve seen such a significant increase, however, it is believed to be the environment; children spending more time indoors, on screens and reading (mainly black writing on a white background) and not getting enough daylight is to blame.

Studies conclude that exposure to blue-rich light, especially during morning sessions, increases academic performance, concentration and progression of students. While warm lighting can reduce aggression and positively affect social behaviour.

Higher red-spectrum proportion and dimmed room lighting create a calm and private space. This ambience also supports reading aloud sessions, prayers, mindfulness breaks and communication.

While violet to azure (similar to natural sunlight), reduces eye strain, is supportive of circadian entrainment and increases the melanopic content of the light


Field research includes:


A study by Heschong Mahone[7], which found that students in well-lit classrooms with more daylight/bigger windows progressed approximately 20% faster in maths and reading. As we know, daylight produces biological effects on the human body (Wurtman, 1975).

Hathaway (1990)[9]. argues that there is a correlation between absenteeism and lighting. He goes on further than any other researcher, to make links to lighting and incidences of dental cavities and even gains in height and weight. His study found that students under high-pressure sodium vapour lamps had the slowest rates of growth and development as well as the poorest levels of attendance and achievement.

Jago & Tanner argue that ‘the visual environment affects a learner’s ability to perceive visual stimuli and affects his/her mental attitude, and thus, performance’ (1999)[9].

Differences in performance and mood under different kinds of lighting in relation to gender and age were studied by Knez and Kers (2000).

Benya suggested that for ‘lighting to be effective, daylight must be supplemented by automatically controlled electric lighting that dims in response to daylight levels’.

(2001). Supported by Barnitt in 2003.

There is evidence that children read more fluently in classrooms that are very brightly-lit (Mott et al 2011; Mott et al 2014). Kids may perform better on mathematics tests, too (Choi and Suk 2016).

In 2019, a Californian pilot[6] to replace costly, inefficient fluorescent lighting in classrooms in a bid to save energy, found that adjustable white LED lighting (which allowed the teacher to control the colour and intensity of the classroom lighting) improved the learning environments, with observed improvements in student behaviour, within both traditional and special needs classrooms.

More recently, we worked with the University of Aalborg and partners to implement an advanced lighting concept at Herstedlund School, in Denmark.

Using a lighting management system (LITECOM) to collect data on the use of light in the classrooms over a three-month period. The findings made for interesting reading.

The internet-enabled and app-based lighting management system meant that four pre-programmed lighting scenarios could be easily controlled by the teachers. We worked with the teachers to design different environments for different learning processes. The colour settings and light intensity of all the luminaires in the classroom were individually adjustable, whilst teachers could also define their own settings.

The lighting scenarios were designated as follows: Standard, Smart Board, Fresh and Relax. Which you can see below.

Five motivations for using lighting as a tool to support teaching were identified:

  1. Supporting and structuring learning activities – promoting interaction between students and teachers
  2. Communicating through lighting and involving students (for example using the Relax scene while reading)
  3. Influencing the activity level and behaviour of students
  4. Creating atmospheres – teachers chose lighting scenarios and adjusted the lighting to support activities and structure lessons
  5. Helping with the completion of visual tasks and boosting visual comfort


The findings of the study demonstrated how the visual effects related to comfort and visibility play a key role in both the teachers’ and students’ sense of well-being and satisfaction.



Behind educators and families, the physical environment (including daylight and artificial lighting within) hold the potential to influence how successfully our children learn – and should therefore be seen as a third educator. Receiving a greater level of funding, research and importance.

Children should not have to adapt to the environment, the environment should adapt to the child. But for this to be successful, a paradigm shift in policy and focus will be required.

Our classroom crisis can be solved if we can rapidly transition ministers away from their obsession with meeting targets and provide the funding the sector so desperately needed.

While lighting does account for the greatest proportion of energy costs in schools, good design, specification, management and controls, can have a significant impact on limiting electricity consumption, saving energy, keeping running costs to a minimum and providing the nurturing environment our children need.

Meaning that sustainability commitments, such as net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 are still achievable, but alongside solutions that also benefit our health and well-being.

We can and absolutely should use lighting as a supplementary tool to support learning activities, to help student/teacher communication and to positively affect students’ activity levels and behaviours.


Our call to action


Light not just to meet lighting standards within a room but light in alignment with users’ needs. To create atmosphere. To support visual tasks. To create classrooms that are fit for the 21st century.

As teachers become learning companions/guides, it is the progressive schools that provide rooms that adapt to individuals and the time of day, and that support new pedagogical/educational concepts that will win.

A concept supported by Dr Shelley James, Founder of The Age of Light Innovations, Consultant and WELL advisor, who commented:

“British children will spend an average of 23 hours per week on screens (19 minutes every day10) – compared to just four hours per week outside11. One in five of children will not go outside today at all.”

This, interestingly, is less time than UN guidelines for prison inmates – which states a minimum of one hour of suitable exercise and fresh air daily12.

“Exposure to the right light at the right time is therefore crucial to shape a child’s development and their long-term health and well-being – from the likelihood of becoming blind13 or developing diabetes14, to their ability to switch effectively between tasks15 – and even to manage risk16.

School is not a panacea and lighting is just one component of a healthy learning environment, however as this article points out, children spend many hours of their young lives in a classroom – given the private rate of return for one extra year of schooling is around 9% every year17 – any investment is money well spent”.

We must not forget that decisions made today will shape the world of tomorrow.




  13. Landis EG, Yang V, Brown DM, Pardue MT, Read SA. Dim Light Exposure and Myopia in Children. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2018 Oct 1;59(12):4804-4811. doi: 10.1167/iovs.18-24415. PMID: 30347074; PMCID: PMC6181186.



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