The Furniture Industry Research Association

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Knowledge Hub Article

Published on 28th October, 2008
by Ergonomics Department

​Safe Seats of Learning - How good school furniture can make a difference

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FIRA has produced a call to action to improve furniture used in educational institutions. Safe seats of learning: How good school furniture can make a difference declares that a lot of furniture currently used in schools and colleges is not flexible, is bad for users' health [incidence of recurrent back pain in 10-16 year olds is alarmingly high] and is not fit for purpose. The report also suggests the factors which drive the purchase of educational furniture are often the cost and the outdated idea that 'one size fits all'.

How good school furniture can make a difference

The present climate in schools is one of change and development. The Government has a vision of high quality, forward-looking school accommodation that will improve opportunities for students and produce a competitively skilled workforce for the 21st Century. The current activity and the Government’s ambitions to re-think schools as resources for the whole community offer significant opportunities to manufacturers and suppliers of school furniture. However, to date, the vision of designers, architects and educators has not been matched by a similar level of innovation from suppliers, with the result that many projects are failing to live up to the ambitious agenda set at the beginning of the tender process.

Unfortunately, school furniture often receives little consideration within overall project management, and detailed specification of furniture and equipment is often extremely vague. This has led to the selection of poorly designed or inappropriate products. Now is the time to make a change. Furniture does not have to be stuck in the post war era. We call on architects, designers, specifiers, manufacturers, teachers and students to work together to create adaptable environments which:

  • support the widest range of teaching and learning strategies,
  • are efficient and sustainable,
  • safeguard the well being of children,
  • remove barriers to concentration, communication and information.

The following document aims to stimulate specifiers to question the current methods used to select furniture and the rationale behind decisions made. At the same time, a collective approach is needed between designers, educators, manufacturers and specifiers to ensure furniture chosen today continues to suit tomorrow’s schools.

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