Best Practice

Learning environments: A question of light and air

With the darker days drawing in and winter upon us, Fiona Aubrey-Smith considers two issues that do not often make it to the top of school improvement plans – light and air

Have you ever walked around your school specifically focusing on the nature of light? Research shows us that good lighting significantly influences attainment and that poor lighting is a significant barrier to learning, reducing attention, engagement and recall. It also has a negative impact on behaviour (Heppell, 2019; Münch et al, 2012).

You will have heard of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), for example, whereby the winter’s lack of sunlight creates problems in part of the brain called the hypothalamus, affecting hormones, sleep, appetite, mood and concentration.

Most of us would agree that light intensity influences our cognitive performance and how alert we feel – that is why we fall asleep in the dark and have our most active days outside in the sunshine. But, as school leaders, we do not often stop to think about what we can do about it in our schools. Now is your chance – here is what you need to know.

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