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The secret to catering for large groups when space is tight

Jason Eastwood, Managing Director at Canopies UK, discusses how schools should add dining space with multi-functional benefits

Posted by Alice Savage | May 13, 2017 | Outdoors

Larger classroom sizes have left many schools facing a major new challenge: how to cater for the growing number of students with their existing dining facilities.

Student roll numbers may have steadily grown in recent years, however many dining rooms have remained the same, making them cramped and congested at break times, with some students being left with nowhere to sit.

While the canteen may only be used for one to two hours each day, it’s an area that’s just as important as classrooms, even more so now that the atmosphere and culture within dining spaces and the effect it has on pupils’ behaviour is being assessed by Ofsted inspectors.

Finding an additional dining space solution that’s affordable, will create the right environment, meets the right standards and won’t cause too much disruption, isn’t easy. But then, it depends on where you look.

Maximise space and free up congestion

In recent years, we’ve worked with an increasing number of schools who’ve used outdoor canopies to create extra dining areas for their pupils. They include Sir Stanley Matthews School in Stoke-on-Trent, who wanted to extend their dining area to help maximise their space and alleviate congestion at peak times. 

Sir Stanley Matthews School

More recently, we were approached by Wellington School in Timperley, who needed to create a sheltered area that was large enough to help take some of the strain away from their busy canteen hall.

And after winning the catering contract at Winstanley College in Wigan, Caterlink, decided they wanted to create more space to be able to serve more students during break and lunchtimes. Installing a canopy, that doubled up as a multi-purpose area, enabled them to do just that.

One canopy = multiple uses

In most circumstances, outdoor canopies can be used for more than their intended use. For instance, many schools find that they provide them with really useful storage space and, depending on where they’re situated, they can also double up as waiting areas for parents and pupils. Outdoor canopies also provide protection from the elements all year round, whether that’s from the heat of the sun, ice, wind, rain or snow.

Wellington School

Last but not least. Outdoor canopies are also quick and easy to install with minimum hassle. The average installation should take between one to two days. And if space is especially tight or health and safety is of particular importance, then cantilevered design systems are ideal as, rather than being ground mounted (and the posts being a potential obstruction) they enable canopies to be wall-mounted instead.

Winstanley College

Requirements have changed. Schools are becoming increasingly switched on to the fact outdoor canopies can provide them with more than just a way to protect students and staff from the elements at break times or as they make their way to and from classes.  

They’re being recognised as the game-changer in catering for growing classroom sizes at dinner times, as well as providing much-needed additional space that can be used for a multitude of purposes, all year round.

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