THE QUEEN’S SPEECH AND WHAT IT COULD MEAN FOR EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTES – FROM NURSERIES TO UNIVERSITIES

The biggest area likely to affect the education sector this Parliament is that the government is working towards legislation being brought forward to not only give every child the best start to life by improving schools but also new powers to take over failing and “coasting” schools and turn them into academies. It is not yet clear exactly what it is that defines a school as “coasting” yet, but it was pointed out within the Queen’s speech that “A coasting definition will be set out in due course according to a number of factors”

SO, HOW CAN YOU BEAT THE “COASTING” STATUS BEFORE YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT DEFINES IT?

You may have noticed recently that there has been increasingly more research into the importance of ergonomics at work and that this has more recently prompted studies to be carried out on the effects of ergonomics – or a lack thereof – in the classroom. There are two parts to the effects of these studies that are likely to be brought to the fore in the coming years due to the government’s plans and they might not be as obvious as you think.

We’ll start with perhaps the most obvious. It is now well documented that improved ergonomics in the classroom has a big impact on not only physical health but also cognitive development and achievement. Attention spans are improved which cuts down on boredom and disruptive behaviour, a positive attitude towards and willingness to study and work has been noted and higher achievement levels have been reached. With the new legislation being brought forward to convert failing or “coasting” schools into academies and barriers removed to speed up this process it is important that you are ahead of times and as prepared for your OFSTED inspection as you can be.

YES, BUT WHY WOULD ERGONOMICS AFFECT MY OFSTED REPORT?

The government are planning to continue to increase spending on the NHS by at least £8 billion a year by 2020. It was also pointed out in the Queen’s speech that there will be a greater focus on healthy living. According to various studies, including one carried out by Backcare UK, back pain is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, costing the NHS £1.3 million and the government £13 billion in benefits. A study by Leboeuf-Yde and Kyyik found that causes of lower back pain can start in childhood and it is hard to argue against this when you take into account that children sit in classroom chairs that are not kind to their forming bones for up to 80% of their time.

Apart from stress on and potential damage to a forming spine, a lack of ergonomics causes a lack of proper blood circulation, tense and problematic neck, back and shoulder muscles and constricted digestive organs. Even if these problems do not cause the child to need to see a doctor, these same problems and their effects can continue on into adulthood and it becomes highly likely that at some point the effects of poor ergonomics on the body will require a person to use some area of the NHS – and probably more than once, as many of this issues can become chronic.

If these visits can be prevented through intervention at early ages at a time where the government is trying to improve NHS services and relieve pressure then it makes sense to believe that proper ergonomics will become a requirement from educational institutes that will be reflected in OFSTED inspections – especially if there is also to be a focus on healthy living in general.

IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO REALISE THAT IT IS NOT JUST ERGONOMIC FURNITURE THAT CAN IMPROVE YOUR OFSTED REPORT – DIFFERENT FURNITURE CAN HAVE AN IMPACT ON DIFFERENT AREAS OF YOUR REPORT – EVEN AS THINGS STAND AT THE MOMENT.

Firstly, as you are probably aware, you must let parents know about an OFSTED inspection and invite them to share their views on Parent View. Parents may bring up concerns that can easily be remedied through the correct furniture use/installation, for example, “I am concerned that my son/daughter is having to carry so many books around all day” or “I don’t feel my child’s belongings are safe”. Lockers can solve both of the problems, while tray storage can provide organised storage for text books, for example.

Inspectors are also required to take note of student opinions of the school and lessons. A school that is vibrant, feels spacious and is easy to navigate is likely to encourage positive feedback from pupils and is easily achieved through the choice of colour for furniture and correct storage facilities. Lastly, inspectors are required to observe throughout a range of situations outside of a normal lesson, including lunch/break and assembly times. Furniture that is simple and quick to set up and pack away for these times can help to make you appear efficient and organised, while provision of furniture that cannot be tampered with and/or become easily obstructive keeps safety high on your agenda.

It is also good to note that we have been breaking away from the sit still and listen type lessons for a long while now and the focus is shifting more towards creating active learning environments. Because of this, classroom furniture, in particular seating is required to be portable in weight and design.

IT’S NOT JUST SCHOOLS THAT ARE LIKELY TO BE AFFECTED BY THE PROPOSED CHANGES TO COME

Another change outlined in the Queen’s speech is the provision of 30 hours of free childcare for 38 weeks of the year. This means that nurseries and daycare centres are likely to be reviewed more closely, not only by the government but local authorities and now even more parents than before. The supply of proper equipment that will not only look after the soft, forming bones and spines of young children but that will also be functional and lasting will be both desired and to an extent, expected.

Finally, with no clear commitments to bringing down tuition fees, it is likely that students who do make the decision to continue into higher education – instead of opting for one of the proposed 3 million more apprenticeships to become available over the next five years – will beexpecting the best for their money and they will probably have more room to be choosy, especially if universities find themselves struggling to to fill places. This means that they will expect their dorms to be suitably furnished, their lecture halls to cater to their needs and comfort and study/library areas to properly meet their expected standards.

So, it seems that there may be yet more expectations for the educational sector to rise to despite other recent challenges. How do you feel about the new proposals and what will you do to rise to or perhaps even combat them?

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