Chairs are the most important pieces of furniture in any teaching space. It has been well documented that uncomfortable or wrongly sized chairs have a significant negative impact on pupil attention and attainment. When working to a tight budget, it is a good idea to first invest in quality seating and then economise on other areas of the classroom.
With numerous makes of chair on the market, some with twenty-five year or lifetime guarantees, making a decision about which chair or chairs your school needs is a task requiring considered thought. A lifetime guarantee means the chair is there for life! How can you ensure a chair you love now is one that will continue to work in the future? One core principle to hold firm to is the ideal of comfort and support for pupils and their developing bodies; schools who prioritise low price over this crucial detail often only realise when it is too late that they have made a expensive mistake. Teaching time is lost trying to settle fidgeting pupils, and pupils themselves can find it difficult to focus whilst they try to get comfortable.
Many chairs claim to be ergonomic meaning that they support the posture of pupils. However, some makes can still cause pupils to fidget or get distracted and they can still become uncomfortable after a period of time. Many teachers will be surprised to know that some chairs have been carefully designed to encourage natural movement and adapt to individual body types and sizes. Based on research these chairs and stools are designed to allow pupils to slightly move and flex their bodies on their seat without knowing it, which encourages good posture in a controlled way without interfering with their peers or distracting themselves.
Schools adopting a zoned approach to the Gratnells Learnings Rooms phisophy, with staff and pupils sharing distinctly equipped spaces for different learning activities, may also require different seating in each room. In one room, stools positioned at large project tables will give pupils the space to spread out art and design work, and stand up quickly and easily to get closer to materials. In another room, softer, more colourful chairs may encourage sharing, reflection and socialising. The core learning purpose of a room should be known to staff and pupils, to facilitate sharing and trading of space and to ensure that each space is used to maximum advantage.