The right classroom lighting can have a dramatic effect on children’s school experience
September is here and the new school year begins with a flurry of crisp new uniform, freshly stocked pencil cases and diligently labelled clothes. This week, teachers, headteachers and leadership teams will be welcoming new ‘ kindergarteners’ at the school gates for the first time and looking forward to helping returning pupils settle into senior years, it’s a time of new beginnings.
Many parents and schools will also be busy thinking ahead, planning for the influx of new pupils joining in the next year’s intake. As the deadline for 2018 applications approaches, parents will be comparing class sizes, Ofsted reports, reputations and the quality of the pastoral care. While within school buildings, staff will be looking over forthcoming refurbishment, building and maintenance programmes, improving the quality of the learning environment itself and acknowledging the massive impact it has on children’s sponge-like brains.
Modern classrooms – flexible, welcoming and healthier
Today’s classroom experience is virtually unrecognisable from what it was 20 years ago – pupils are no longer restricted to traditional desks, laid out in inflexible rows under the glare of flickering fluorescent lights. Instead, teaching is immersive and interactive, with children working together in clusters. And huge advances have been made in the way we illuminate our classrooms too; there are many ways schools can dramatically improve a child’s experience by ditching fluorescent lighting in favour of modern LEDs.
Ditch the strips
On a basic level, a classroom or library lit with evenly diffused, LED lighting looks like a significantly more inviting space than one illuminated by glaring fluorescent strips. Traditional fluorescent lighting flickers, which is thought to be tiring on the eye and be a possible cause of headaches. LED lighting doesn’t have these unpleasant side effects.
Schools which have phased out traditional fluorescent strip lights in favour of adaptable LED lighting often report dramatic improvements in pupil concentration, behaviour and of course, performance. Modern LED lighting more closely mimics daylight, which helps children’s eyes work more efficiently and means they get less tired.
The result? They’ll find reading easier and more enjoyable. A study in Hamburg showed that using the right lighting increased the reading speed by over a third.
A massive benefit of modern LED lighting is that the colour and intensity can be adjusted throughout the day, to suit pupils’ evolving needs and get the best out of them depending on their activity.
A brighter light can be used early in the day or during tests, to stimulate the circadian rhythm, make children alert and boost their concentration – studies in South Korea show that children achieved higher scores under bright LED lighting than under fluorescent strips. During break time or in after school care, LED lighting can be adjusted to a warmer temperature, creating a more relaxing atmosphere and soothing restless youngsters.
Better for pupils, staff and budgets
Let’s not forget the teachers! The more optimised their working environment, the better their classes will be. As Raj Gunasekaran, Business Development Manager at Energys Group, says: “Improved lighting often translates to happier pupils and staff, meaning increased productivity and quality of work.”
LED lighting can easily be installed in modern schools and retrofitted in older buildings with minimum disruption. Long term, it also has big cost savings. Schools don’t need a big budget to install new lighting. Projects that improve an institute’s energy efficiency qualify for interest-free Government funding, through Salix Finance.