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This content is taken from the National STEM Learning Centre's online course, Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science. Join the course to learn more.
Wide angle shot of a classroom laboratory (used in the 360 tour)

Fixed vs flexible layouts

There are many ways a science lab could be laid out depending on how the room was designed, it’s original use and also sometimes dependent on the specialism being taught.

Some labs might have fume cupboards which would benefit a chemistry teacher, but there might be little use of it if the room was a base for a physics or biology teacher. In the interactive video below there are six different layouts to look at. Here you will hear a teacher discuss the benefits and challenges each layout has when teaching practical work, delivering content and managing behaviour.

  • Interactive 360 video – Click + icons to view text. Click audio icon to listen to narration. Click arrow icons on doors to move to the next room.
  • PDF version with photos and description of each room.

Tip: Right click or hold click (on mobile devices) to open links in a new window.

Layout guidelines

Students and teachers need space to move around a lab safely. National guidance often specifies safe distances between benches, walls and doors to make sure that this happens. For example, in England, there must be a minimum of 900mm between benches if people are expected to walk between them, and a minimum of 1400mm between benches for students sitting with their backs to each other.

Many lab layouts meet the standards in one layout, but if movable furniture is used, then some alternative arrangements may limit space. Care needs to be taken that labs are not made more cramped by how movable benches are used.

Fixed or flexible

In the comments below, provide two advantages of having a fixed layout, and two advantages of having a flexible layout. Can you think of anything not already posted?

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This article is from the free online course:

Managing the Practical Classroom in Secondary School Science

National STEM Learning Centre