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Ten Years of Open Plan

Peter Cameron

Open plan education began in New Zealand primary schools about 1970 when keen groups of teachers who wished to work in teams helped get conventional classroom blocks modified. Also the new minimum code of buildings permitted architects to design' open planned' units. The rnajority of New Zealand open plan units set up before 1973 were modified existing classrooms; after this date, most were architecturally designed. By 1975 there were 200 units working, 113 were designed and 87 were modified classrooms. In 1983-4 an estimated 550-600 open plan units or 'pods' were being used, some in what are now termed 'variable space schools.' Three-quarters of these are architecturally designed, and one quarter are remodelled existing blocks. With the
downturn in primary school rolls and reduced building activity, this proportion is likely to remain stable for some years. Not all so-called open plan units or variable space schools operate open plan programmes. 72 out of 600 schools questioned in June 1983 (i.e., 12%) replied that former open plan classrooms were operating as if divided into single classrooms. Four hundred and eighty four of the 600 questionnaires were returned, representing an estimated 80-90% of the open plan units. This leads to estimated totals: 550-600 open plan units operating open plan programmes; 1600-1800 teachers in open plan units; 44,000-50,000 pupils in open plan units. Open plan thus encompasses about 10% of the primary school population, compared with about 3.5% when surveyed in 1975.

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