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.
It is, as a general rule, much more difficult to alter an old school satisfactorily than to build a new one. A problem of this description is shown in Fig. 3, the plan on the left-hand side representing a school for girls and infants in connection with Holy Trinity Church, Upper Tooting, as it was in the early part of 1903. This school had not been built all at one time, but had gradually grown to its present proportions by the addition of small pieces here and there. There were two entrances in the front, opening directly into classrooms, which were passage rooms from one to another in series, until a cloakroom was reached in the form of a low and dilapidated shed in a yard at the back ; while the infants, as a general rule, passed down an open passage beside the mistress' house into a playground, and came in through their cloakroom under a covered way. A little examination of the plan will show that a great number of the regulations were in abeyance. The cloakroom accommodation was insufficient, the rooms were passage rooms, and the lighting was in many instances bad, while the entrances were not under good supervision. At that time the Borough Council wished to widen the road in front to such an extent as to cut away the entrance porches, and the opportunity was taken to thoroughly revise the plan. It was decided that for the future the entrances should be made entirely from the playground in the rear, except for a supplementary or emergency exit for girls in the front. The yard was utilised, the existing cloakrooms swept away, and a piece of the infants' classroom cut off to form a direct passage way to some of the rooms. By this means the school was divided into two sections, each having a separate entrance and corridor leading to its various rooms. Every room was now served from a corridor, and ceased to be a passage room, and plenty of cloakroom accommodation was provided, both for the girls and for the infants. In order to retain the same seating accommodation as before, however, it was necessary to pull down one of the end walls of the infants' classroom, and to extend the room so as to make up for the piece which had been cut away from it to serve as a corridor - even though the portion cut away was merely enclosed in a boarded partition and ceiling, so as still to admit light to the classroom from the window which opened above the cloakroom level. Several similar windows at high levels were added, the cloakrooms and corridors being kept quite low and flat roofed to enable this to be done, thus adding light to every one of the rooms, either by this means or by additional windows opening in front. The final result of all this was to convert a remarkably unsatisfactory school into a satisfactory one, complying with the regulations in almost every detail - at anyrate so far as the school itself was concerned, though the mistress' house remains small, and there is direct means of communication between it and the school by means of a door, which is generally kept locked. The cloakrooms, it may be mentioned, as well as the infants' corridor, are top lighted and ventilated. It will be noticed that there are no fireplaces shown in any of the classrooms, as the heating is accomplished entirely fay hot water, the boiler for which is in a basement; and it will also be noticed that there is no general schoolroom, the whole of the work being done in classrooms. This, however, is no detriment. Girls and infants are taught entirely separately, and the only means of communication between the two departments is through a single door entirely under the mistress' control.
Fig. 2. B.C.Andrew M.S.A St Austell Cornwall.
The large L-shaped infants' classroom has, since this plan was prepared, been divided into two by means of a glass partition placed where the word "Classroom" is printed, and an additional window has been inserted.
The example is given in order to show by what simple means it is often possible to convert a bad into a good school, if care be taken in the matter. In this case the alterations were necessitated by the widening of the road, but in many others similar changes have been called for on the recent transference of what are called "non-provided" schools to partial control by the Local Authority. The example will serve also to emphasise the immense advance which has taken place in the planning of small schools since the subject first came into prominent notice, everything being now done by regulation and rule according to ascertained best methods, whereas formerly all was experiment upon lines which were little understood.
It may be noticed that considerable use is made of top lighting in all these cases, this being possible and even advantageous with schools which are of only one storey in height. Attention has already been drawn to the lighting of the classrooms in the Upper Tooting schools by means of windows which are at a sufficiently high level to obtain their light above the low flat roofs of the cloakrooms, while the cloakrooms themselves have top lights in the form of lanterns, the sides of which consist of open louvres for ventilation. It is somewhat in the same way that the corridors of the other schools have been lighted. Naturally this cannot be done with schools which are built with one floor over another, but there is no reason at all why advantage should not be taken of the opportunity, when it occurs, of lighting and ventilating in this way. It is generally considered preferable, however, that a small school should be on one floor only, unless the site is so restricted that if this were done there would be insufficient playground area, which is hardly likely in the small rural districts where most small schools are built.