ISSN 1753-0849

Childhoods Today Online JournalChildhoods Today

An online journal for childhood studies

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Special Issue - June 21, 2009

Children’s social competence and school environments (Part 1)

Siân Hickman

The design and structure of school buildings have a substantial effect on the lives of the children who spend a significant part of their waking hours within the school environment. Children experience school and its buildings on both a collective and an individual level, through physical interaction and the development of emplaced knowledge, and school is a context for the achievement of social competence by children. The dominance of curriculum, the nature of power relations between adults and children and the impact of government policy initiatives influence opportunities for the development and achievement of social competence. This study compared and contrasted two different styles of London primary school building, working with 22 children (aged 6-8 years) and 6 adults within ethical principles of social research, using open-ended and child-centred methods. The findings explored various aspects of children’s experiences and perceptions of the school environment. In conclusion, this study reflects upon the ways in which two differing school buildings, alongside the whole school environment, affected the achievement of social competence and the nature of child–adult relations. It raises questions concerning internal and external environments and social competence, and issues concerning children’s experiences and the whole school environment in relation to social and emotional aspects of learning.