Learning Environment Opportunity Study

John Held , 17 February 2017

ACA – SA has been working closely with the SA Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) to introduce a new type of planning study for schools.

Known as the Learning Environment Opportunities Study (LEOS), the planning study will provide a strategic review to assess existing facilities and identify opportunities to improve spaces for teaching and learning on the school site. A LEOS will be unique for each school, each school community and each site.

The key characteristics of the program from the architect’s perspective are the following:

  • Gets architects involved up front.
  • Develops a direct relationship between school and architect, with light touch from government architect.
  • Does not solely look at large projects, but encourages coordinated planning around all maintenance and capital spend.
  • Is not subject to fee bidding. There will be fixed fees based on school size and agreed scope of work.

LEOS will be administered by Office for Design and Architecture SA (ODASA), using a fixed fee dependent on the size and complexity of the school and using a panel of suitably qualified architects. The program is designed to show the value of getting architects involved very early in any planning process.

In the past the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) has undertaken detailed feasibility studies for upcoming projects that may or may not receive funding. Conversely, funding and regional priorities often mean projects commence without proper planning, with rushed timelines and with little opportunity for large-scale planning of the sites.

LEOS will encourage schools to understand the role of the physical environment in better teaching and learning. It is a collaboration between the school community – staff, students, parents – and their architect to enable the timely, long-term planning of the site for better learning outcomes. The study is undertaken as a partnership between the school community, their Learning Improvement Advisor, and a member of the approved DECD/DPTI panel of architects with experience in education planning.

LEOS requires a collaborative approach with all stakeholders working together. It will review the way learning currently happens at the school and visualise how learning could change through modifications to learning spaces. It will provide a strategic plan to provide adaptable spaces that facilitate improved teaching and learning as change occurs.

The study will establish a framework of key elements within the school culture and character, buildings and open space, circulation and gathering places, pedestrian movement and vehicle safety.

It will explore opportunities and develop a set of principles to allow incremental changes within the established facilities.  The strategies would facilitate both large and small scale initiatives, which work towards the goal of creating better learning environments in a logical, step-wise and cost-effective manner. Initiatives may range from micro-sized student-led projects through to capital works, but all will reference the LEOS framework developed through the collaboration.

The LEOS report will provide a workable and robust framework on which the school is able to base decisions about development and change that facilitate better environments for learning.

ACA – SA is very pleased to have played an integral role in developing this new approach.

John Held is ACA – SA President and a director of Russell & Yelland.