This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol3", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
Just as the smaller elementary schools are almost invariably devised upon the " Corridor" system, so are the larger schools planned on the "Central Hall" system. The idea is that there are times when it is advisable to collect all the scholars into one hall for special announcements, while it is also more convenient than is a narrow corridor when there are a large number of scholars passing in and out between classrooms and playground at the same moment.
Section on A° A.
When the school is only one storey in height, as in the large infants' school at South Shields (see Fig. 4) designed by Mr. J. W. Donald, A.R.I.B.A., the hall is generally placed in the centre of the building with the classrooms on both sides, it being best if the hall runs nearly due north and south, so that the classroom windows face to either east or west. In this particular school, although it is for infants only, there are two entrances, one at either end, there being a single turn in each, and also an inner door for prevention of draught. Before the hall is reached there occurs a large cloakroom, which also has an external door into the playground and can be traversed either diagonally or across one end, so that with a little organisation the children can be made to pass in and through and not to return by the way in which they entered. (A similar arrangement will be noticed in both the new cloakrooms shown in Fig. 3.) A little point like this is sometimes of considerable value, as, if overlooked in the planning, it is impossible afterwards to prevent crushing and inconvenience. There is one classroom at each end which opens out of the entrance corridor, while corresponding to one of these is the babies' room, with rapid exit through the cloakroom to the playground. Corresponding with the other similar classroom there is a teachers' room and book-store under the teachers control, while a general storeroom is obtained by taking a piece out of one of the cloakrooms. All one side of the building is taken up by a large schoolroom, separable into three classrooms, corresponding to those on the other side of the hall, by means of sliding partitions, but accommodating rather more children, the numbers in each case being figured on the rooms. Although, in the classrooms, left-hand light is obtained in every case except for a few desks to which there is supplementary back lighting, this is not possible in the schoolroom, the seating of which is planned with the idea of the partitions being open, 72 children having light from the right-hand side, and 70 children from the back. These 70 children have a stepped gallery and continuous benches, as have also the infants in the babies' room, but most of the children are provided with dual desks; and it may be noticed that in all cases the planning and the dimensions of the rooms are both largely controlled by the seating and by the regulation allowances according to the class of desk which is used. The central hall is only 22 feet 6 inches wide, and so is much more suited for corridor purposes than it is for a large assembly. As all the rooms opening out of it have glazed partitions, facility is afforded for control by the head teacher without necessarily entering any classroom.
This building has been ventilated and warmed by a very complete installation of the Plenum system, which is to be more fully described in a later part of this Volume.
The hall is entirely top lighted by means of dormers, with the exception that in each end gable there is a large semicircular window, the cloakrooms being kept low to allow of its introduction. The classrooms are all separately roofed, and there is a gutter between their roof and the schoolroom roof. While this construction is economical, as enabling the central hall to be kept quite low, it has the disadvantage of forming a snow-trap in bad weather, which needs cleaning out with some care, - and even at the best of times any water which collects in a hidden gutter of this sort is always difficult to get away.
Another very complete school on the same system is that now being erected for the Borough of Bexhill from the designs of Mr. H. P. Burke Downing, F.R.I.B.A., which are illustrated in Fig. 5. The plan in this case was selected from over one hundred submitted in open competition, and as it was approved without the slightest alteration by the Education Department, it may be taken as a model plan and worth a good deal of attention. The school is to be built in two parts, the infants' department being erected first, and the girls' department being afterwards added. Like the infants' school at South Shields, it is of one storey only, and on the hall system, and the hall, it will be noticed, runs almost due north and south, while every single classroom has left-hand light provided, and can obtain direct sunlight at some time or other during the day. It is thus almost ideal in its arrangement, and it is a distinctly good point that the classrooms are almost all small, none of them containing more than 50 students at a time. All of them are planned with dual desks except one (the babies' room), and all of them are capable of supervision from the main hall. The infants' entrance is in the centre of the complete building, and as there are 410 of these little children to provide for, their cloakrooms are divided into compartments, so that all do not crush into the same place. Their entrance corridor turns in the usual way, but is very wide, and eventually they all enter into the centre of the hall under a gallery, their entrance being facing the platform and the head-mistress' room at the other end of the hall. The way in which the headmistress is thus given control of the place is well worth a little stud}', as is also the planning of a disconnected private lavatory and the stockroom. There is an exit for the infants to the playground quite distinct from the main entrance, for use during the intervals of playtime, when the children run out without putting on hats or other outer clothing. Over the infants' cloakroom and entrance an assistant teachers' room is contrived, and also a gallery, giving them, like the head-mistress, perfect control of the hall, while the main entrance is placed thus also under supervision.
The girls' department is equally well planned, the entrance being at the south end of the building by the side of the head-mistress' room, which corresponds with that of the head-mistress to the infants' school, though it is perhaps a little doubtful whether the playground entrance on the east would not more generally be used, as it leads directly into a large vestibule from which the cloakrooms open. Just as the south entrance is under the control of the headmistress, so is the east entrance under that of the assistant-mistress, as may, perhaps, be best seen in the section given in Fig. 5A. In fact, the general idea of the plan seems to be not only perfect lighting of all parts, but most perfect supervision of the children at all possible times. The halls are lighted in almost identically the same way as in the infants' school at South Shields, and there is the same need for periodically cleaning out the gutters between the hall roof and the classroom roofs, which could have been avoided had money enough been spent on building the hall to a greater height.
When a large school has to be placed upon a restricted area of land it has, in order to provide enough playground space, to be built of two or three storeys in height. Such a school is that in Dean Road, South Shields, designed by Mr. J. W. Donald, A.R.I.B.A., and illustrated in Fig. 6. What is here called the central hall does not now allow classrooms to be built on both sides of it, as top lighting is not possible with a building of several storeys in height. In this instance the best has been done that was possible with a somewhat difficult site. The main building is placed at the corner so as to face Dean Road to the north-east, and it is on this side that the central hall occurs, with corridor extensions at either end leading to classrooms. The whole of the ground floor is given up to boys and the first floor to girls. The boys enter in the front at either end of the central hall, which they do not necessarily pass through, as it is possible to go straight to classrooms without doing so in most cases. Where it is avoidable the corridor extension of the central hall in this way is not always to be commended, as it renders supervision of the classrooms much more difficult than when they open directly out of the hall, the school partaking of the character both of the central hall and of the corridor type. Most of the classrooms, it will be seen, have supplementary lighting as well as left-hand lighting. Both for boys and girls there is a good open playground and a covered shed, from which, as well as from the open, the latrines can be reached; while at one end of the boys' playground is situated the caretaker's house, planned in accordance with regulations, so that no room is necessarily a passage room. There is also, on the south-west side of the playground, a detached building which on the ground floor is used by the boys for manual instruction, and on the first floor by the girls as a cookery centre, access being obtained by an open well staircase. This is an unusual kind of staircase to find in elementary schools, for they are almost invariably in short, straight flights, parallel to one another, and separated by brick partitions, thus entirely avoiding the dangerous well-holes and the baluster rail which it is such a temptation for children to slide down, while giving also the opportunity for fire-resisting construction and the consequent provision for a safe means of exit should a fire break out.