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Children go back to school in Poplar for lessons in a marquee to keep ‘social distance’ rules

PUBLISHED: 10:00 18 June 2020

Pupils have lessons at Manorfield School observing 'social distance' in this specially designed marquee. Picrture: Kilian O'Sullivan

Pupils have lessons at Manorfield School observing 'social distance' in this specially designed marquee. Picrture: Kilian O'Sullivan

Kilian O'Sullivan

A school in Poplar has become the first in east London to put up a classroom in a marquee designed around social distancing.

Construction starts on pop-up plaground classroom at Poplar's Manorfield School. Picrture: Kilian O'SullivanConstruction starts on pop-up plaground classroom at Poplar's Manorfield School. Picrture: Kilian O'Sullivan

Space was created at Manorfield Primary for the marquee which has been erected in the playground to hold lessons for vulnerable or key workers’ children during the pandemic.

The marquee designed by architects in Shoreditch is a temporary structure where the pupils have lessons and eat their lunch while keeping a safe distance from each other.

“Our children have been out of school for far too long,” Manorfield’s headteacher Paul Jackson said told the East London Advertiser.

“We want as many children back in as safe a way as possible.

It takes less than a morning's work to put up this makeshift marquee classroom for Manorfield School, designed by Curl la Tourelle Head architects practice in Shoreditch. Picrture: Kilian O'SullivanIt takes less than a morning's work to put up this makeshift marquee classroom for Manorfield School, designed by Curl la Tourelle Head architects practice in Shoreditch. Picrture: Kilian O'Sullivan

“Creating extra pop-up accommodation in the playground allows us to do this and meet the children’s needs as they return to school.”

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The marquee has at least 25 per cent more capacity for social distancing than classrooms in the building itself.

The architects, from Curl la Tourelle Head practice in Hoxton, were inspired by outdoor learning at schools in Denmark.

They aim to show that it’s possible to create an environment to accommodate more pupils safely under the constraints of the pandemic that also allow the distancing rules to be observed.

Chief architect Wayne Head explained: “We came up with the idea of transferring some teaching into temporary structures using large tents like marquees at festivals. This helps to rethink how schools can be designed and used beyond Covid-19.”

He is currently negotiating with other schools after Manorfield to spread the concept of “teaching under canvass”.

Manorfield has been kept open during the lockdown as a hub for Tower Hamlets Council, looking after 35 children from 11 schools who are vulnerable or whose parents are key workers unable to educate them at home.

The headteacher campaigned last year to “break the cycle of malnutrition and obesity” in Poplar and raised funds for new cooking facilities for the school in Wyvis Street to provide them with a mid-day meal in one of the most deprived areas of the country.

His pop-up classroom is a temporary solution until the end of term to get Poplar’s children back into education as soon as practicable.


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