Saturday, 4 September 2010

Lockers

School lockers - love them or hate them - there tends to be no middle ground. Lockers in schools do tend to bring out a reaction from people. Students want them, parents like their off spring to have one - staff understand why students want them, but often don't like them for a whole host of reasons and the irritating issues that arise because of them. (These include lost keys, tampering, storing of inappropriate items, not enough for every student, stuff abandoned and so on. I can still remember the smell of a yogurt discovered in a locker after six weeks of a very hot summer - this alone caused a whole new school 'emptying locker policy' at the end of each year!)

Frequently issues are caused by the location of lockers around schools due to them not being 'designed in' during the initial build process. This is especially true in older buildings and as a result they are often 'dumped' into major circulation routes, which exacerbates crowding issues at peak movement times.
Many people want them in classrooms, as this allows just a few lockers in one location and encourages better supervision. Frequently though classrooms are either not large enough or there are not enough lockers for large groups or there are access issues if the room is locked and the teacher not around.Whilst this is a school management issue, it often can become an issue for both staff and students.
In one meeting I attended some time ago, one architect thought it a good idea to put all the lockers in one location for easier supervision. One thousand lockers = one thousand students in a hurry in one space at the same time - he almost seemed surprised when I made a few concise strong comments! He has yet to take up my offer of visiting a school so he can watch traffic flow around lockers at the end of the day.
When lockers are designed into a build then there is much greater chance of sensible and effective locations, that minimises crowding, damage and foolishness.
So the best lockers I have seen in any school recently are some of those in the new Highbury Grove School in Islington. Here they have been designed and built into a large curving wall within a circulation area and colour used really effectively. They look great and look as though they were designed to be there. The curve naturally gives a little space between them and , of course, therefore people. They are not all like this - there are several banks of lockers in recessed areas located around the school as happens in most schools.
However, I am not sure why the others in circulation areas aren't built in as above as well - it gets rid of the dust traps (and litter) on top of them and makes them look like a deliberate fixture.
Schools all over the place are looking for solutions to the locker issues including: finding lockers with sloping tops to avoid the litter trap issue, finding low level lockers with transparent tops for use as display cases and so on.
Building them in as in these photographs may just be a really neat solution!

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