A statewide audit of Victorian public schools aims to help students struggling in open-plan classrooms

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

The Grattan Institute has called for an audit of Victorian public schools, following the recent decision to stop construction of open-plan classrooms in New South Wales (NSW).

Although the Victorian government already focuses on construction of  “flexible learning spaces” that enable open-plan rooms to be partitioned using soundproof walls, the public policy think tank says it knows there are a number of Victorian schools – including some built recently – that don’t have genuinely flexible classrooms.

For hundreds of the state’s school students, that means trying to overcome countless distractions in noisy classrooms – a design flaw that also adds stress for classroom teachers.

An open-plan learning space, which has now been labelled unsuitable for learning.

Grattan Institute education program director Jordana Hunter said the audit is needed to identify school buildings with learning spaces that “aren’t fit for purpose” and rectify them.

- Advertisement -

Open-plan classrooms house dozens of students in one large room and became popular in the 1970s when the education sector around the world embraced a collaborative approach to learning that saw traditional classrooms make way for the new model.

Since then, many schools have adapted buildings with soundproof sliding walls to create smaller “flexible learning spaces” within the open-plan classrooms.

But with a University of Melbourne study on the effect of classroom environments on literacy development revealing some students – especially those with poor listening or attention skills – were falling behind in the open-plan environment, the audit will help ensure all students have access to optimal learning opportunities.

A Victorian Education Department spokesperson said the school building authority worked with academics and education design specialists to inform future classroom design, including adaptable and open learning spaces. It also identifies schools where improvement to teaching spaces is needed.

- Advertisement -

“This is quite simply resolved,” said study co-author, Professor Dani Tomlin. “We don’t need to build new buildings, we just need to make some minor amendments to make them the very flexible spaces that give teachers exactly what they need in the classroom environment.”

Share This Article
Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live