In most parts of the world, primary education is the first stage of compulsory education, and is normally available without charge, but may also be offered by fee paying independent schools.
The term grade school is sometimes used in the US, although this term may refer to both primary education and secondary education.
The term primary school is derived from the French école primaire, which was first used in an English text in 1802. In the United Kingdom, “elementary education” was taught in “elementary schools” until 1944, when free elementary education was proposed for students over 11: there were to be primary elementary schools and secondary elementary schools; these became known as primary schools and secondary schools.
Primary school is the preferred term in the United Kingdom, Ireland and many Commonwealth nations, and in most publications of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Elementary school is still preferred in some countries, especially in the United States and Canada.
In some parts of the United States, “primary school” refers to a school covering kindergarten through to second grade or third grade (K through 2 or 3); the “elementary school” includes grade three through five or grades four to six. In Canada, “elementary school” almost everywhere refers to Grades 1 through 6; with Kindergarten being referred to as “preschool.
Theoretical framework of primary school design
School building design does not happen in isolation. The building (or school campus) needs to accommodate:
- Curriculum content
- Teaching methods
- Education within the political framework
- Use of school building (also in the community setting)
- Constraints imposed by the site
- Design philosophy
Each country will have a different education system and priorities. Schools need to accommodate students, staff, storage, mechanical and electrical systems, storage, support staff, ancillary staff and administration.
The number of rooms required can be determined from the predicted roll of the school and the area needed.
Building design specifications
An optimum school will meet the minimum conditions and will have:
- adequately sized classrooms—where 60 m2 in considered optimum but 80 m2 for the reception class
- specialized teaching spaces
- a staff preparation room
- staff welfare facilities
- an administration block
- multipurpose classrooms
- student toilet facilities
- a general purpose school hall
- adequate equipment
- a library or library stocks that are regularly renewed
- computer rooms or media centres
- counselling, sick and medical examination rooms