Free schools are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. With the success of academies evident, free schools are the new equivalent. While academies are established comprehensive schools which have been transformed into self-run academies taken out of the control of the local authority, free schools are brand new and often operate in community spaces or entirely new buildings. This is all well and good, but of course this means that if you are part of a group setting up a free school, you will need to know how to set up your classrooms.
If it’s a brand new school, you’ll need to make sure you set a good first impression, so while you don’t need to opt for expensive classroom furniture, you should opt for pieces which offer good value for money. Buying in bulk usually means you can negotiate a discount, so approach a good classroom furniture stockist and explain what you need to see if they can offer you a reduced price for a large order.
Firstly, you need to figure out the number of pupils you are expecting. Once all your applications are in and you have the final number of accepted places, you can figure out your class sizes and how many rooms you will need. If you haven’t already found a suitable space, do so now you have the exact figures prepared. This way, you can figure out a layout for your classroom based on the amount of furniture.
Once you know how much you will need, choose some suitable desks based on the age of the pupils. Very young pupils will need the smallest desks, whereas the older year groups will be fine with full-sized furniture. You also need to buy enough chairs for all of the pupils, along with spares in case you have visitors or parents coming in to help. The teachers may need bigger chairs, so make sure you factor these into your furniture order.
When it comes to storage, there are two things to think about: storage for resources and storage for the children’s belongings. For resources, cupboards and drawers should suffice, or if you have a separate storage cupboard outside the classroom or built into a wall this is even better as it keeps the clutter out. For children, there are a few methods you can use: under-desk drawers where they can keep their notebooks and pencil cases if they sit in the same place all the time, a single set of drawers with one for each child or lockers for older children for sports kits and more expensive equipment.
If you will have computers in the classroom, remember you will need extra desks and chairs for this. Some desks come with holes built in through which you can thread the wires to keep them tidy and out of the way, so you may want to consider this. Other specialist furniture can include science desks, which include gas taps and power points for experiments, and art and technology desks, which tend to be made from durable wood and are easy to clean.
Carla Tyldesley is fanatical about the free school concept and is looking forward to a boom in the scene