Are you sitting uncomfortably?;Letter
Physical factors influence the behaviour and learning of all pupils, but especially so when they are poorly motivated - these are the children who will be constantly out of their seats or fidgeting.
I provide consultancy for behavioural difficulties. My experience is that disruptive behaviour has a correlation with poor-quality accommodation. There is a stark contrast with the amount of Health and Safety Executive advice and legislation designed to protect office workers and bench-top operatives. Pupils (and teachers) come second best.
In primary schools, about one in four of my cases are helped by attention to seating. This usually draws attention to a child too big for the furniture provided, or using an inappropriate chair. Taller children sit hunched back, with thighs off the seat and all their weight on the pelvic bones.
I have seen moulded plastic stacker-type chairs used when proper chairs are in short supply - these provide no lumbar support, but strain the body when used at a table, and the splayed legs snag passers-by. It is little wonder if these pupils are stressed and regularly appear unsettled.
The other key consideration is personal space. Even if a classroom is not overcrowded, the furniture may not provide adequate personal space to ensure comfort or convenience.
School furniture is designed around fixed-table stations and matched chairs; these seem sized down to a minimum, with insufficient allowance for how children may grow within a school year.
Aggression and anxiety increase in crowded or uncomfortable conditions. Before condemning a child's behaviour, look first to their comfort and "elbow room".
Owen Booker, People and Places Consultancy, The Chapel House, Newton on the Hill, Harmer Hill, Shrewsbury