Schools do not need to spend huge sums on new facilities to improve pupil attainment, research suggests.
Gain can be made without too much financial pain, researchers say
Inexpensive changes such as re-painting classrooms and replacing furniture can improve the learning experience.
But a run-down environment could have a considerable detrimental impact on pupils, the researchers at Newcastle University found.
Standards would not necessarily improve dramatically by offering "bells and whistles," they said.
Improvements to schools where the buildings and environment were unsatisfactory would bring a significant impact on pupil morale, health and performance, the researchers found.
However, this would not necessarily apply where the school environment was already good.
Researcher Pam Woolner said: "This would suggest strongly that the government's school building programme would benefit by providing buildings that are adequate to the needs of the school, rather than offering bells and whistles and expecting standards to rise dramatically."
The research, carried out by Newcastle University's Centre for Learning and Teaching, looked at the impact of previous phases of investment in schools, after the government announced its Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme.
Researcher Elaine Hall said that the government's aim to modernise state schools had created discussion surrounding the impact of pupils' environment on their learning.
The researchers carried out two studies on behalf of the Design Council and the Centre for British Teachers, which are both in favour of modernising schools.
They studied a number of environmental factors in schools such as lighting, air quality, noise, colour and room arrangements and found that, in many cases, small and relatively cheap alterations aided learning.
They also found that consulting pupils, parents and staff when planning refurbishments was important.
Their findings will be presented at a seminar organised by the university's Centre for Learning and Teaching on Wednesday.
A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said the BSF programme was based on good design and consultation, and the government was committed to renewing all secondary schools in need of modernisation.
"We have a unique opportunity to tackle a generation of under-investment in our schools," the spokesperson said.
"Good design, developed through consultation with teachers, pupils and the wider community is at the heart of this programme and will make sure that new or modernised buildings are equipped to meet the needs of the end users."