Should we be looking for an alternative to the traditional school desk and chair?

Should we be looking for an alternative to the traditional school desk and chair?

The traditional classroom desk and chair set-up is being challenged by progressive classroom designers and innovative schools, who believe a new direction could help improve students’ health and academic progress.


Sitting at a desk for five hours a day could be contributing towards the skyrocketing levels of childhood obesity and could be having a negative impact on student engagement. Studies by Loughborough University have discovered that swapping seated desks for standing desks can improve student focus by as much as 12%.

Holding studies in Bradford and Melbourne, Australia, the researchers discovered that standing desks led to a significant increase in student activity and was also seen to improve student engagement and academic progress.

Lead researcher, Dr Stacey Clemes, explained: “Sitting down for prolonged periods is bad for your health, but in the classroom and the workplace this has become the norm.

“An urgent cultural shift is needed, and we feel that the only way to do this is to target the next generation of workers, particularly while they are still at school. If we can bring about a behaviour change, which we learn from a young age, then this will hopefully continue into adulthood and improve people’s overall quality of health.”

Teacher With College Students Giving Lesson In Classroom

This is not the first time that researchers have looked into the health and academic effects of school desks. In 2008, the Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) investigated the potential for removing one-size-fits-all seating in classrooms.

Citing a high rate of back pain in 10-16 year olds and the changing body shapes of students throughout the generations, the FIRA report suggests that school desks are due a significant change. The association hope that a larger budget would be allocated to furnishing classrooms – helping students stay healthy and focussed.

Levent Çaglar, senior consultant ergonomist with FIRA said: “Equipment is often seen as being more important to learning but we believe more money should be allocated to furniture, and ring-fenced specifically for this. Schools should be spending wisely rather than just going for the cheapest. We’re also pushing for ergonomics to be included in teacher training courses, and for Ofsted, when they visit, to assess the impact of furniture on children’s wellbeing.”

Some schools have even looked to go further when designing desks to ensure their students are healthy and receiving sufficient exercise without compromising the amount of time they spend in the classroom. Students at Allion Elementary School in Montreal, Canada have the opportunity to learn whilst riding a stationary bike. The students have reported that they are more focussed on reading and learning when riding the bikes in the classroom – as well as receiving a good work-out.



At Innova, we are dedicated to helping you develop classrooms which will best benefit your students, assisting their comfort and academic progress. Our full turnkey service allows our expert team to work with your school management throughout the entire process of designing a new learning space. Call or email us on 0161 477 5300 today.

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