But are they an anachronism, a holdover from when everything was to be shared and individual property was anathema?
There is something in human nature that likes a space of one's own. At Windale primary on the Oxford estate of Blackbird Leys, the Year 5s have brand new individual desks. It is a place where many of the youngsters don't have much personal space or personal property. The children put their arms around these grey pieces of furniture and say, "We just love our desks". Why? "Because it's mine".
Headteacher Mary Whitlock loves the desks, too. They are lighter, plastic versions of the wooden ones with flip-top writing surfaces opening to reveal generous storage space, many of us remember. "We don't have drawer units. When we say, 'get out your literacy book', you don't have a migration across the room." Each child is responsible for his or her desk and equipment. A child needing a rubber or a pencil doesn't need to troop across the room, and a teacher wishing to return an exercise book just pops it into the storage compartment.
Because the desks are light, they can easily be rearranged for different lessons. A disruptive child can be moved for a while to a different part of the room. The desks look rugged, too, not easily marked or scratched. How frustrating for a generation of children who will never get to carve their initials and leave their own legacy to the school.
Classmate desks, which come in a range or colours, are made by Sebel Furniture Ltd, tel 01908 317766
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