Precious Spaces is about valuing the small, overlooked or hidden spaces in schools that, with a little more care and attention, could benefit everyone who uses them.
These spaces are precious because important work takes place in them. This work includes support with reading, writing and maths and counselling and other therapies. However, sometimes practitioners in whom schools have invested money and time find that their working environment presents an additional challenge, especially if they do not have regular access to a room that is suitable for the activities that they are leading.
Precious Spaces addresses the challenge of creating purposeful, well-designed working environments with practical advice about how to enhance the qualities and attributes of those spaces. It also aims to recognise the different types of work that takes place in them in the belief that this approach can make a cumulative and significant difference to the individuals who work in them (both students and staff) and to the school community as a whole. It offers suggestions about how to take the first steps towards designing spaces in which both staff and students feel that they are valued and in which they feel comfortable to work together.
Emma Dyer researches the value, management and design of small spaces in schools and how their benefit to the people who use them can be strengthened. Emma also edits and writes for architectureandeducation.org with Dr Adam Wood; a site that they established together in 2015.
Precious Spaces is based on previous research from her PhD (2018) about reading spaces for beginner readers in school and her current collaborative work with Dr Sara Freitag, Senior Educational Psychologist for Achieving for Children, about the design of therapeutic spaces in schools. You can read their 2020 report about therapeutic spaces for care-experienced children here.
Emma currently works with Achieving for Children Virtual School, advising and supporting schools and families of previously looked-after children and young people. Emma has also worked as a primary class teacher and specialist Reading Recovery Teacher in Tower Hamlets, East London and for BBC World Service Radio as a researcher in London and Glasgow. Twitter @Emmamolim
Illustrations are from artvee from a curated selection of Japanese woodblock-printed books by the master meiji era painter and designer Furuya Korin (1875–1910) who works in the style of Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716) from Kyoto.