Aylsham Bure Valley Junior is a school without walls as �3m extension opens

An innovative school environment was alive with celebration in Aylsham on Friday following the completion of a �3m building project.

The scheme at Aylsham Bure Valley Junior School, Hungate Street, has created a space where walls come down and nothing is hidden behind closed doors.

The brainchild of progressive head teacher John Starling, the new building develops pupils' sense of independence and collaboration.

The building centres on an inner circular open area, with custom built bay-like seating, surrounded by glass-edged, interconnected classrooms.

Called the 'whisper space', it enables children to take charge of their learning by escaping the classroom, while teachers can keep watch through fully glazed walls.

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Shutters separate the classrooms and can pair groups up or separate them when necessary; one class could be learning in three different ways simultaneously.

Walls facing the outside slide open to link to outdoor learning areas where a wooden stage, nature garden, and reading shelter are found.

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The 'whisper space' is for quiet, independent, or collaborative learning, the classrooms, or 'talk spaces', for discussions, and outside, the 'call space', for louder, more active learning, such as drama class.

Mr Starling said: 'We now have the opportunity to develop learning and take the glass ceiling off children, to see what they are capable of.

'That sense of collaboration, of independence, is building up skills for the 21st century. We are giving them the chance to make sensible, mature choices, we do not have to tell them to line up for class, just that it is time to come in, and they come.

'This design takes all the corridors out, places where children could get anxious. It creates a more comfortable, calm environment. The key things were maximum vision, and sound insulation.'

Friday's celebration saw fun workshops, including karate, animals, Broadway music director Martin Lowe take a class, and Paul Evans, 10,000m track finalist at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics, take PE.

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