Over the last 20 years, independent education has becoming increasingly more accessible to families choosing the perfect school for their children. The focus on student experience means that this choice is now far more driven by consumerism than in previous generations. In the post-war era, whilst the more “rustic” independent school facilities were seen as an inter-generational badge of honour, today’s parents want to see the same design choices they make in their homes, cars or restaurants reflected in their children’s schools.

Beautifully designed and presented spaces in schools are the icing on the cake when viewed in conjunction with excellent academic provision, pastoral arrangements and sporting facilities. In a crowded market, the look and feel of your school could be a defining factor in a parent’s decision about where to send their child.

So what are some key things to remember when planning your refurbishment projects?

Say It With Design

What feeling do you want the space you’re refurbishing to leave people with? Think about whether the space should feel energising or cosy; have integrated tech or be a quiet zone; will be a high-traffic area or be back of house. Once you know the feeling you want to create, think about engaging a supplier who you can discuss your ideas with. They know what’s available on the market and will be able to give you options which match your criteria and also suggest some things you may never have thought of.

Know Your Audience

Think about where your pupils and parents spend their leisure time. Reflecting a similar design aesthetic in your refurbished areas will identify the school as a place they feel comfortable and confident in. You can reflect design elements from the places your audience love whilst staying true to your own school’s heritage. If a key selling point of your school is history and heritage, make sure you bring those elements into the modern day through framing and displaying historic document or photographs, or taking motifs from a school crest and using them creatively as window manifests.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

A welcoming Reception area should be high on all bursars’ agenda. Creating a space which feels welcoming to new and existing parents alike is absolutely crucial to fostering a positive relationship with them. You might want to consider the fact that a lot of people’s school memories from their own childhood are not particularly positive, and being in school can put them on edge – making the Reception area feel calm and accessible will put them at ease when they arrive. Also think about which posters and leaflets are on display in this area. If they aren’t essential, consider removing them as they can make the space feel cluttered and overwhelming.

Cover Every Angle

Whilst a refurbishment project will be dealing primarily with the physical space, you should think about the project holistically. Is there anything non-refurbishment related which you can tie in to the works to create a real impact? For instance – if you are refurbishing a dining area, are you able to work with the caterers to introduce a new menu to coincide with the launch of the new space? If you are refurbishing a student lounge, could the pastoral team revamp the student code of conduct with the student council, committing to treating the new space with respect? If you’re installing new play apparatus outside, could the physical education team use that moment to discuss the benefits of staying active to students? The more you are able to tie in service or curriculum areas to the projects you are working on, the more engaged colleagues will feel with the work you’re doing.

Engage… But Not Too Much!

You should engage a range of stakeholders in their wants and needs for space at the scoping stage so that you can ensure the space is suitable for everyone who needs to use it. Pull out the key elements for their requirements and make sure you can demonstrate how they have been taken into account in the project. However, it is important to remember from the start the cardinal bursar’s rule: you cannot please everyone. Nor do you need to factor everyone’s opinion into the project. Trying to do that will cause endless headaches and you simply will not be able to please everyone.

Show Your Best Angles

Once you have realised your vision and unveiled your beautiful new space, show it off! Task the person who is in charge of the prospectus, your website and your social media channels with promoting pictures of the space in all its glory. Then use these images to show off your physical attributes and make it easy for a student to imagine themselves at your school. Remember also, parents of older children may not attend the school very often, so keeping them up to date via social media is a great way to keep them feeling connected.

TaskSpace are ideally positioned to help you realise your interior design vision. Even if you’re just at the ideas stage, the team would be delighted to talk to you.