In England there exist laws which govern the size of the desks and chairs that teachers receive to insure that the chairs are comfortable and ergonomically sound. Unfortunately when it comes to students, the school desk and chairs have no such requirement. Therefore school desks and chairs are often chosen for their low cost, rather than for their level of comfort.
Over the years the ergonomics of school furniture has become more important, not less, as children spend longer periods of time at their desks and in front of computers in school.
Former English education secretary Charles Clarke reported for the British Educational Suppliers Association on what his research showed was the serious need to improve the education of Britain’s children. The report stated that, “Sitting for extended periods on chairs that are of inappropriate size and that lack ergonomic design and at classroom desks or tables whose height relative to the chair is incorrect and will be uncomfortable” will diminish students’ ability to learn. Furthermore, “The Back Pain Association is convinced that schools are a significant source of back problems.”
The report also stated that schools did not pay much attention to the ergonomic factor when choosing school furniture like classroom chairs. Rather, the motivating factor for picking student furniture was the “lowest unit price.”
Not only do children sit in their school chairs longer than they did in the past, but students are also not the same size they were in the 1960s, when much of today’s school furniture was designed. In the past 50 years children are actually taller, on average, than they were in the 60s.
The report urged ministers to have schools utilize adjustable furniture in the new schools that are now under construction under England’s school rebuilding program.