Bean bags, bright colours, wide-open spaces - they're the hallmarks of modern-day classrooms - but not at Auckland Grammar.

The leading secondary school's most ambitious building project, a $6 million building opened by Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae last week, flies in the face of ministry models and sticks to tradition instead.

The school says it has applied its Grammar touch to current Ministry of Education guidelines with some modern touches to the three-storey block such as breakout rooms, Wi-Fi, data projectors and ergonomic chairs.

But beanbags? "Not our style," an email from the school said.


The Ministry of Education wants all schools to update their teaching spaces by 2020. Described as the "Modern Learning Environment", case studies promoted on the ministry website show large free-flow areas with moveable furniture, bright colours, lots of technology and in some cases - such as at the new Hobsonville Point Secondary School - two teachers per class.

The push towards open-plan rooms stems from research showing learning should be individualised, social and student-led - rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

A white paper from CORE education said most schools were moving to the new teaching style: "However, the actual classrooms largely remain as they were originally designed, and still retain the suggestion of factory-style learning," the paper said.

Headmaster Tim O'Connor said because Grammar's teaching style was to teach content, rather than focussing on student-led learning, the 12-classroom block's layout fitted it better.

"Our teaching style is teacher-centered learning," headmaster Mr O'Connor said. "The key thing with the new classrooms are that they are wide not deep - so those in the back row are closer and it's all about the relationship between student and teacher."

It also allowed for students to move about the school more quickly, fitting with its demanding timetable of seven 40-minute periods per day.

Money for the building largely came from fundraising, with the Ministry of Education meeting one-third of the cost.

The Grammar way
•Teachers must wear professional dress - no short skirts for women, men must wear a tie.
•Classes are streamed according to academic ability.
•A relentless exam schedule - three times a year for juniors, four for seniors.
•Students do not usually bring electronic devices to class.