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Pupils take a shine to space-age lighting

As the days draw in and the darkness descends, children and staff at one primary school in Manchester are basking in the glow of England's most sophisticated classroom lighting system.

The hi-tech, computer-controlled lights, which look similar to neon strips but vary in brightness and warmth in tune with the body's biorhythms, have been installed at Green End primary in Manchester. The school's new buildings, costing pound;4.6 million, were officially unveiled last week.

Green End is the first school in the country to experience "dynamic lighting", designed by Dutch electrical giant Philips. The system has been used in some hospitals.

Martine Knoop, senior lighting specialist at Philips headquarters in Eindhoven, Holland, said: "In the morning the light is cool and quite bright, supporting your biorhythm and giving you a boost at the start of the day.

"Before lunch, the light starts to become warmer, and the level is reduced, so your body can regenerate during the break. Your body is at its alertness peak at this time and does not need extra help. The children go outside during lunchtime and enjoy the daylight. Most people experience a post-lunch dip, not because of the food, but because of their natural biorhythm.

"The brightness of the lighting is increased after lunch, but to a slightly lower level than early in the morning.

"It gradually diminishes through the afternoon, and the colour in the classrooms changes from cool white to warm white."

Ms Knoop said the changes were so subtle that nobody in the school would notice them unless they left the building for a few hours.

A spokeswoman for Manchester city council said a research programme would monitor the impact of the lighting system on pupils over the next 18 months.

She added that changing light levels could improve children's well-being, concentration and behaviour.

Leroy Taylor, head of Green End primary, said : "We're concentrating on well-being at the moment, and not making links to academic performance or behaviour." He said that although the school's new atriums were wonderful, the classrooms were quite deep and needed good lighting.

KAIREN'S ILLUMINATING VIEWS

KAIREN CULLEN, an educational psychologist, said: "I'm sure that changes in lighting can influence children. Companies do the same thing with adults.

Fast food outlets are kept bright so customers are not comfortable enough to stay there for long. Beauty parlours use low lighting to get customers to relax.

"But there are many other influences apart from light on the children - seating arrangements, equipment, temperature, sounds and smells."

Ms Cullen said one primary teacher she visited in London combined different lighting levels with aromatherapy to create the right mood.

She said: "Scents wafted across the classroom. It was lemon and geranium first thing in the morning and lavender at the end of the day."

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