Communication Friendly Spaces

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We believe that good universal provision starts with adjusting the environment to reduce or remove barriers to enable all learners to develop their social, emotional and learning potential. Consideration must be given to:


  • The way in which adults interact and communicate with children
  • The physical environment
  • Visual support
  • Careful planning.

Effective strategies for supporting children are known by all staff, including all of our support staff, office staff and premises staff. We have implemented a consistent of approach across the whole setting/school to avoid confusion for our children.


 Elizabeth Jarman visits Rudston Primary to evaluate our work in Communication Friendly Spaces

Elizabeth Jarman the founder of Communication Friendly Spaces approach visited our whole site this week to help us to evaluate the work we had done so far and to help move us on further.  Elizabeth was very positive about our Learning environments from Bright Stars  across to our Y6 children’s spaces.  She also challenged us all to improve our learning environments to develop exciting and challenging work spaces which will develop all our learners and gave us some good ideas to make our site more family friendly.

Elizabeth led training for our school staff  and staff from a variety of local schools.  We all took away a new understanding of how our learning environments impact on our children’s development.


Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS)

The Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale (ECERS) (External Website) is an internationally recognised tool which enables Early Years settings to evaluate their environment and provision, and to identify clear steps for development in order to improve outcomes for children.

Originally designed in America, ECERS was the tool used in the UK national research study, the ‘Effective Provision of Pre-school Education’ (EPPE) Project which studied the progress and development of 3,000 children from different types of Early Years settings. The EPPE findings demonstrated a correlation between the quality of provision, as measured by ECERS, and children’s development and future achievement.

Settings can make a difference by integrating good language models to stimulate children in their development. This will include using a range of activities including:

  • Providing a good environment for listening and attention
  • Adults talking and listening to children
  • Imaginative use of play and toy resources
  • Activities with music, song and rhyme
  • Storytelling and reading books
  • Following and using the child’s interests.

In Bright Stars and the Children’s Centre we are also considering the spaces for our youngest children by using the ITTERs environmental rating tool for Infants and Toddlers.  Staff are undertaking a project with Elizabeth Jarman and other Liverpool schools to develop Communication Friendly Spaces and approaches for two year olds.


Pupil Voice activities

Our pupils took the photographs below to illustrate which areas they think are important to our learning environments.







Principles of our approach to the learning environment at Rudston Primary.

Our aim is that the physical space should connect with the underpinning pedagogy of the setting. It is essential to tune into the environment from the learner’s perspective.

To do this, it is really important to observe, reflect and then make informed decisions about the way that children interact with the environment, if  a developmentally appropriate, responsive learning space is to develop to meet the needs of those individuals, reflecting their preferred contexts for learning.

The learning environment is a teaching and learning tool. It is a holistic approach, which   involves examining practice based on the key areas of Physical environment, Resources and Adult Input.

The principles of Communication Friendly spaces and the aims for our learning environments are to provide –   

  • secure and “safe” environments for children
  • a stimulating and supportive environment for children of all ages
  • inclusive and non-discriminatory environments
  • positively promote talk in the environment.
  • support positive socialisation of children with peers
  • useful life skills including independence, organisation and working with others
  • the awareness and practice of child-centred, active learning
  • an understanding of the lives, local community and interests of the children and their families
  • opportunities for children to participate fully , engaging and influencing the learning environment


How  does the Communication Friendly approach to learning environments  enable our children to learn and fulfil their needs?

Basic needs – Physical needs of our learners

  • Classrooms should be warm, clean, airy, bright, calm and welcoming,
  • Furniture needs to be comfortable and capable of being easily moved to ensure variety.
  • Comfortable areas should be provided for quiet, individual, paired or group reflection or reading.
  • The layout of the room should be inviting, suggesting the prospect of interesting activity.
  • Displays, including Working Walls, models, interest tables, learning resources, help desks, Learning Curriculum Challenge displays will stimulate enquiry and interest.
  • Students should have free access to water and the toilet.

Psychological needs

  • Each student should be greeted by name and made to feel welcome.
  • We can remove stress by maintaining a calm and purposeful demeanour and expecting our students to do the same. Value and respect each other.
  • Routines help to establish order.
  • It is important to have high and consistent expectations of every student.
  • Value children’s work, display Star of the Week.


Self-fulfillment needs and personal esteem

  • Welcome each child by name and use names frequently in a positive way.
  • Make a point of commending and rewarding good behaviour.
  • Praise those who engage in the learning process.  Even if their answers to questions are wrong, make it clear that you welcome their efforts.
  • Learning Challenge Curriculum opportunities.
  • Treat all suggestions seriously, encouraging students to explain or justify their ideas where necessary.
  • Allow students to have fun – on the understanding that this does not interfere with the learning process.
  • Encourage independent learning, through continuous provision/help desks/resourcing/ICT.
  • Opportunities for self- reflection , peer learning, challenges and contribution of all learners.

the Impact of Communication Friendly spaces.

What we wanted to do

  • To develop a purposeful and progressive learning environment and community.
  • Enable practitioners, through a creative approach to the Learning environment to engage children, young people, their families and the wider community
  • Take an existing process and adapt it across all Key Stages to promote understanding and community cohesion.
  • To build a shared school culture and ethos.
  •  To provide an inclusive learning environment which will develop all learners.


In each classroom we have created a Reading area that is comfortable and encourages all children to read for pleasure.



Impact evaluation – implementation

How we did it

  • Attended CFS training. This generated ideas about how to plan/evaluate the Learning environment.
  • Presented the CFS training at a series of training days to enable colleagues to work with the model, adapt it to their space and pupils,and assess its usefulness.
  • Co coaching was used to develop relationships across the Key Stages and develop the learning environments.
  • Summarised the ideas generated and presented on website, to Governors and parents.
  • Involved children in pupil voice activities.


Communication Friendly Spaces QuestionnairesStaff   2013/14 Strongly agree Agree Slightly agree Disagree      strongly
Understand principles of CFS 80 20 0 0
Confident in Practice 80 20 0 0
Respond to pupils ideas and needs 60 40 0 0
The  learning environment is calm and conducive to talk 70 30 0 0
The  learning environment enables independent learning 70 30 0 0
Working walls are in place and children are using 60 20 20 0
Children accessing reading areas for purpose and pleasure 100 0 0 0
Children’s work is on display and valued 70 30 0 0
There are spaces for class,  groups or individuals 90 10 0 0



I can find things easily in my classroom to help with my learning  90 10 0
I am well behaved in our school 90 10 0
The  learning environment is calm and conducive to talk  80 20 0
The  learning environment enables independent learning  70 30 0
Working walls are in place and I am using them 50 50 0
I use the reading areas for purpose and pleasure 60 40 0
My work is on display and valued 60 30 10
There are spaces for class,  groups or individuals 70 30 0
Respond to pupils ideas and needs  70 30 0
I use thinking maps to help me 50 30 20



The school is  welcoming, warm and friendly 97
Children are well behaved in school and high standards of behaviour are set 89
The  learning environment is calm and conducive to talk  96
School supports the child’s personal development and well being 99
Does the school work hard to support attendance? 96
My child’s classroom has an attractive reading area 86
My child’s work is on display and valued 89