How to design a good school dining room

Arne Jacobsen's St Catherine's College Oxford dining room

Tom Waddicor looks at pitfalls and solutions in designing spaces for learners who lunch

The benefits of healthy and nutritious lunchtime meals in schools are well documented and more than 10 years since Jamie Oliver’s School Dinners pupils are now embarking on their new school year in a post-Turkey Twizzler world of low-sugar, five-a-day virtue.

But lunchtime is more than the food we eat. It is an opportunity to come together, share ideas, share knowledge and regroup after a morning of work. It is a time when pupils develop social skills, build friendships and, hopefully, relax. The right environment will ensure pupils are both physically and mentally nourished and return to the classroom ready to learn.

A well-designed dining hall is a huge asset. It is the heart of school social life, a space for events, a place to come together in celebration and potentially a valuable revenue stream. The public nature of these spaces demands – and indeed is worthy of – grandeur. They should be spaces that uplift and inspire.