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Designing the size and shape of indoor and outdoor spaces

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What it is

The size and shape of educational spaces and how the outdoor and indoor areas are connected is important.

If indoor and outdoor areas are designed at the same time, both spaces can be treated equally and be of equal benefit to children and students. If the outdoor space is designed later it might not match the indoor space. This means the space might not get used as well as it could be.

How it can help

Designing these spaces well can make it easier for children and students to get around, use the facilities, and participate in learning experiences.

Some students need more space for staff assistance or for their personal equipment. Some people with disability might fall or collide more easily. This could include people who:

  • are developing their perception of where their body is and what it is doing – sometimes called proprioception
  • have mobility or vision impairments.

All of these design features can lessen the anxieties of some children and students.

Design features to help people get around

There are ways to organise the space so students find it easier to get around.

Safe access

Learning spaces that are larger than the minimum standards:

  • minimise risk
  • make getting around as safe as possible
  • allow more movement around the area
  • allow space for extra staff and equipment.


Corridors should be designed so that 2 people can travel safely side by side in wheelchairs (including electric chairs which are usually larger than manual ones), without anything getting in the way. Lockers, drinking fountains, etc should not be in the way.

Circular design

This design allows different areas of the school to be located around a central point. It minimises travel distances in the building. This helps students with mobility difficulties and helps everyone navigate comfortably and independently. In places where circular design is not possible, extra space for turning around might be needed.

Design that encourages people to participate

Designing the space well helps children and students to learn more effectively.

Indoor and outdoor spaces

Design indoor and outdoor areas so that they open into one another smoothly. This allows staff to supervise children and students without needing to be close by all the time. Glass partitions help with this too.

Use glass or other fencing materials so children and students can be seen easily and they can easily see the teacher and others. This means children and students can be supervised from further away. This helps students to develop independence and self-responsibility.

Covered outdoor areas

A classroom might open out to an outdoor learning area. Direct, level access that doesn’t have steps is important for all people. It can be an optional space for someone when a classroom full of students feels too busy. It can be another learning space where staff can passively supervise children and students.

Outdoor areas can be used all year round if they are designed to give shelter from the sun and rain. They can also have:

  • suspension points for hammocks and swings
  • soft fall material on the ground
  • other sensory learning tools.

Asset Standards and Environmental Management

This information was provided by the Ministerial Advisory Committee: Children and Students with Disability which ceased in 2019.

For advice on building standards contact:

Phone: 8226 3497
Email: education.standards@sa.gov.au

For advice on inclusive legislation and policies contact:

Inclusive Teaching and Learning

Phone: 8226 0521
Email: education.DPP@sa.gov.au