We have been providing services for schools and educational establishments for over 20 years.

Voke Interiors and Flooring initially offered installation of carpet and vinyl flooring to schools. Now working with academies and education trusts as well as independent schools, we have established ourselves as a trustworthy, high quality yet good value ‘one stop shop’ for flooring, decoration, lighting, windows, doors and alterations. A high level of personal service and effective project management ensures the ongoing customer loyalty we treasure.


Modern Interior Design in Schools

Asbestos in School Flooring

Our recent projects

The dining hall

When the headmaster wished to refurbish the 70-year-old dining room and remove the lino-topped folding tables with benches, he approached Voke Flooring & Interiors Ltd to help him resolve the issues of lack of natural daylight and the noise of 300 students eating and talking. As a winner of Independent School of the Year 2015, St Joseph’s College had high standards to maintain.

Initially we removed the high level windows and installed 3 sets of patio doors, which opened onto a terrace area overlooking lawns and grounds of the college. The dated décor was replaced with a contemporary orange colour scheme, modern lighting and, most importantly, fabric panels suspended from the ceiling to absorb the noise. The refurbishment was finished with the installation of new tables and chairs, with the job coming in under budget and on time.

The children's WC’s

The children’s toilets in this 1970s built primary school were difficult to clean and impractical. We removed the old brick dividing walls and urinals, replacing them with 5 bright new cubicles with close coupled units, timber style flooring and contemporary lighting. The toilets are now used more respectfully, are easier to clean and provide a bright, safe environment for the children’s use.

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The nursery classroom

Voke Interiors had already refurbished the Head Teacher’s office, staff room and reception area so we were asked to complete the refurbishment of the classroom in Cookham Nursery too.

Having removed dated floor units and cumbersome partitions, we opened up a large bright space. A white ceiling and pale grey walls were complemented with a darker grey Heckmondwike patterned carpet floor tile and vinyl to the wet play areas. New low level units were fitted in the kitchen area for children’s play and lunchtime resulting in a bright and colourful environment.

The sixth form common room

Creating a light and bright space for sixth formers to relax was the key for this refurbishment. The headmaster of St Joseph’s College wanted a sociable space that attracted the students to spend time there, reflect the school colour scheme and also reflect its location in the heart of Reading. The room was naturally split into different pods, allowing the application of different colours in each area, allowing each space to deliver a unique feel. Working with a local photographer, Tina Panting, and graphic designer, Tim Marotto, we created a striking collage for the main wall of the common room, working hand in hand with the colours adopted elsewhere in the room.

The school library

When refurbishing a school classroom, we consider a number of factors to influence our advice and installation of flooring and interiors, such as the number of pupils using the facility, the school colours, in terms of uniform and branding, as well as the sound insulating properties, practicality and durability of flooring and other materials used. Of course we want it to look good too, so we assess the aesthetic appeal of all materials as a whole when planning a project. This library at Hilltop First School has been transformed, now offering the children a bright, comfortable and appealing space to read and learn. It’s no wonder Ofsted have graded this school as Outstanding.

What is shaping current school design?

Nice as it would be to redecorate and change the look and feel of school classrooms, offices and staff rooms from year to year, cost and practicality are the leading factors when it comes to interior design in schools.

Most schools, and certainly state schools, don’t have endless budgets, so ascertaining how each space is used and how it has evolved over recent years is a strong starting point. While private schools may not face the same budgetary pressures from a reduction in central government funding perspective, they still consider largely the same set of influencing factors when redeveloping their school buildings.

The increasing presence of technology and practical learning has reduced allocated zones within school buildings and increased the need for learning space flexibility.

How does rapidly evolving technology fit in with school design plans?

Senior schools and larger primary schools generally run their IT suite(s) to full capacity, helping to prepare pupils for a life in the technology-fuelled world of work. However, many smaller primary schools have one room that functions as a library, IT suite and music room, yet the space fails to deliver on any one element particularly well.

With the reduction in price and increase in the power of tablets, most primary schools have at least one set of tablets that can move freely around the school between classrooms, helping children to utilise online learning resources while still in their primary learning space. Not only does this free up space previously required by larger PCs, teachers are able to easily incorporate technology into their everyday teaching.

Strength of wifi, secure storage and flexible furnishings are therefore critical elements of classroom design in our project plans at Voke Interiors, in addition to the ever present technology such as an interactive whiteboard and teacher’s laptop.

The knock-on effects on classroom design.

In many cases, the old ‘I teach, you listen’ approach no longer applies. Classrooms aren’t simply arranged with desks in rows and the teacher’s space barricaded at the front where no pupil dare to stray. Quite the opposite, the classroom is a space where multiple learning types happen, from group discussion work, to practical experiments, to individual focus on handwriting practice or reading, and more. As such, furniture needs to be easily movable, with a fluid design that can be easily adapted to multiple uses.

For the majority of schools not fortunate enough to be blessed with lots of free space and a seemingly endless budget, clever classroom design with flexible furnishings is key to efficient use of resources. Voke Interiors and our suppliers are focused on the multi-use element of furniture as well as the need for it to be good value and deliver longevity.


Is the school library at risk?

There is more than anecdotal evidence to suggest school libraries do not necessarily retain the focus of previous generations, given the availability of so many learning resources online and the increasing pressure on school budgets. The number of school librarians has declined in recent years and no nationwide school library strategy yet exists, however Scotland introduced the first School Libraries Policy late in 2018 with the aim of making libraries ‘the hub and epicentre’ of schools.

For primary schools, where a love of reading can be fostered from an early age, they’re as important as ever. Limiting excessive screen time and encouraging children to enjoy a good story can improve social, emotional and academic development. Often the library becomes a multi-use room where music or IT shares the space, where in reality each plays a pivotal role in the development of young children and is deserving of more emphasis than each individual subject gets. Retaining dedicated libraries within schools is critical given the decline in public library availability, however it’s often a low priority when it comes to budgeting, so reliance on parental support has become commonplace.

Developing cost-effective library spaces for children is a passion for Voke Interiors. With comfortable seating, attractive flooring and practical storage, a welcoming space can be made for children to enjoy the love of books and reading.  

Staff rooms: bottom of the pile for budgets?

Sadly, this is often the case. The staff room is largely hidden from public view, but it doesn’t need to be the dreariest part of the school. Motivated staff make for motivated pupils – additionally, schools have a duty of care for staff well-being so should provide a calming and uplifting space for their quiet time away from the children. Let’s face it, teachers are mighty people for inspiring and teaching often large classes of excitable and noisy children.

Coloured paint costs no more than white paint, so considering the colour scheme for a staff room is an easy win – green is often seen as the calmest of colours thanks to its presence in nature, but warm blues, greys and pinks can also contribute strongly to a restorative space. Pantone’s colour of the year for 2019 is ‘Living Coral’ – although the jury is still out on how suitable this bold pink is for a staff room.

Morale boosting pinboards to share praise is another inexpensive addition to staff rooms. Facilitate the sharing of positive words from pupils, staff and parents to celebrate those who continue to do a good job in a difficult profession. Making the staff room a positive space isn’t all about furniture, however if budget allows, then new furniture is an appreciated investment we can also help with at Voke Interiors, as we cater for all budget levels and styles.

Flexible spaces for learning

As teaching evolves, traditional content learning has been trumped by the mastery of skills and incorporation of technology, often needing an approach that doesn’t involve sitting at a desk. As such, flexible classrooms and teaching spaces become increasingly important. At Voke Interiors, our experience in helping schools to redesign and develop their interiors, both teaching and non-teaching spaces, gives us an excellent grounding in how 21st century schools function.

Asbestos in School Flooring

There has been much interest in the press recently about the use of asbestos in school buildings. It’s fairly likely an asbestos audit on an older building would uncover the use of vinyl tiles containing asbestos, which may trigger the process of removal and replacement. Undoubtedly there’s a concern for the health and safety of teachers, pupils and other people working onsite.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a general term which covers six fibrous silicates, which have historically been used in various types of building materials.

However, in this case, we are specifically concerned with the silicate ‘chrysotile’ which was incorporated for its thermal and acoustic properties - for example, into vinyl floor tiles commonly known as thermo-plastic tiles.

The asbestos content in vinyl tiles varies from 12-50%, the exact value being dependent on where and when they were produced. The manufacture of vinyl tiles containing chrysotile, also known as ‘white asbestos’, ceased in 1979.

All vinyl tiles containing asbestos were manufactured 22.9cm (9 inches) square. The asbestos fibres were incorporated within the matrix of the product. Years of polishing and cleaning will have sealed these fibres into the tiles, while the bitumen adhesive used to lay them will also have been absorbed into the back of the tiles. 

Removal of tiles containing asbestos

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirms licensing and notification requirements will not apply;

·         where the exposure of employees to asbestos is sporadic and of low intensity

·         if it is clear from the risk assessment that the exposure of any employee to asbestos will not exceed the control limit.

Therefore it is not necessary to use a fully licensed contractor or advise the HSE when removing materials in which the asbestos fibres are firmly linked in a matrix.

Removal method

In accordance with HSE requirements;

·         tiles must be carefully uplifted using a scraper or shovel

·         tiles must be twice bagged

·         tiles must be passed to a licensed waste disposer for clearance.

Voke Flooring and Interiors have many years’ experience of asbestos floor removal, advising and implementing removal methods, replacements and wider projects. If you need any help or advice on this, please contact us on 0118 957 6337. For further reading on the subject, the HSE offers some useful advice.