Lack of space in primary schools is a growing problem, with class sizes seeing a steady increase over the past decade.

Schools need solutions that are easy and affordable, leading to many looking for creative ways to provide more room. School space experts Canopies UK have found that schools are tackling their overcrowding problems and boosting children’s well-being with an outdoor canopy – a fast and practical way to make more sheltered space.

A growing number of ‘supersize classrooms’
A 2021 study conducted by the Labour Party showed that the number of primary school pupils in class sizes of 31 or more has increased by nearly 20,000 in five years. One in eight primary school pupils is now in a ‘supersize’ classroom of 31+.

Growing class sizes cause a host of issues in schools, from staffing to budget challenges. One key problem is physical space. Primary schools must find space to cater for students during lessons, playtimes and breaktimes, in all weather.

The benefits of outdoor learning and play
One solution to overcrowded classrooms is to take learning outside. Many schools are noting a positive connection between outdoor learning and play, and well-being in primary school children. In fact, studies show that spending time outdoors can help improve children’s:

  • Language and communication skills
  • Motivation
  • Confidence
  • Concentration
  • Creativity

As a result of spending time outside, children are more likely to have improved focus and concentration during their indoor lessons. But, outdoor lessons or play can be hampered by poor weather, so schools need practical and accommodating space to make sure children are getting the most out of their learning.

Primary schools creating multipurpose space
Schools need to expand in a versatile way, and many have found that outdoor canopies offer the additional space they need. Canopies can be used for many purposes – including as covered, year-round play areas or outdoor classrooms.

Some canopies can even be fully enclosed and fitted with lighting, heating and electrics, meaning they can be used as additional interior space all year round.

Ian Hargreaves, director at canopies UK says: “Class sizes in schools are on the rise, and we know many primary schools are struggling to tackle the challenges that arise due to lack of space. Many schools are realising that an outdoor classroom canopy is a great alternative to an extension, as it can provide much-needed covered space at a fraction of the cost.”

Commenting further on the versatility of an outdoor canopy, Ian adds: “Schools are using their canopies for a wide range of space-saving purposes. From extra dining and learning space to a place for after school clubs and meetings, or simply a sheltered space for children to play, the room created by a canopy is invaluable.”

A covered play area for Dedworth Green First School
Dedworth Green First School wanted children to be able to make the most of their time outside during break and lunchtimes. They teamed up with Canopies UK who produced a colourful Connekt back to back canopy for the outdoor play area.

The school now has a long-lasting and maintenance-free sheltered place where children can play throughout the year without worrying about the weather. From outdoor lessons to staying dry on the playground, the canopy offers Dedworth Green First School the additional space they need.