Posture Problems Caused by Current School Furniture

In most of our schools, current best practice is to encourage children to sit in the most upright position they can manage (the ‘right angles’ position).

To help us to “sit up straight” school furniture is designed with flat or backward sloping seats with vertical backs. Now think what happens when we begin to read or write. In the upright position you are nowhere near close enough to the book or papers on the flat desk to read or write efficiently or comfortably. To do that you have to bring head and book closer together. How do you do it? By bending the upper part of your body and forcing the head and neck down, and that’s how you’ll stay until the reading or writing is completed.

What’s happening is that our bodies are being forced into an uncomfortable and harmful position. The back problems caused by such an unnatural and unhealthy sitting position don’t tend to appear until the ages of 13-16 and worsen in the years after we have left school.

Research shows that the most significant cause of lower back pain in children and adolescents is inappropriate furniture at school and in the home. Poor seating also greatly reduces concentration levels.

The ‘Right Angles’ sitting position

  • Principally, the right-angled sitting position is a backwards-inclined resting position.
  • Eyes are a long way from the book. So you have to bend your neck into an unnatural position to see properly.
  • And the right-angled sitting position lands both the hip joints and the lumbar region in extreme positions.
  • It’s neither a natural nor a comfortable way to sit for any length of time.

Working from the ‘Right Angles’ position

  • As soon as you have to begin reading or writing, your eyes need bringing closer to the work you are doing.
  • To do so, you bend the lumbar region.The bending tends to be localized in the 3rd,4th and 5th discs, because the rest of the back is pretty inflexible.
  • Even with a limited bend, muscles, joints and ligaments are overstretched and the back begins to round.
  • There’s also backwards pressure on the lower discs, and to make things more awkward, the extreme flexing of the neck is a very tiring position to hold for any length of time.

The Solution for Improved Classroom Posture

High quality research conducted over the last twenty-five years suggests a handful of simple measures that can be implemented. The most important are shown below and involve the redesign of classroom furniture.

Ergonomists, physiotherapists and health specialists agree that good posture is not just the key to skeletal and muscular health, but also a stimulus for concentration. This increased awareness has led to the new European Standard Approved Classroom Posture Regulations EN1729 being created to set out dimensions for school furniture based on size marks and extra heights for improved posture. 

Height compliant furniture has the benefit of increased pupil satisfaction and likely improved educational outcomes over time. Aware of the fact that between the ages of 5 and 16 children are likely to spend around 15,000 hours sitting down, we have embraced this legislation ensuring that nearly all of our furniture is height compliant to EN1729. Some furniture ranges, shown below, comply not only with the height aspects of EN1729 but also recommendation as to seat shape and design to remove pressure points, lumbar support and back dimensions etc.

Some of these ranges also offer height adjustability ensuring that every individual can work in complete comfort and providing ultimate flexibility in the classroom.

Sloping Tabletops

  • With a slope of 10°-20°, most people will have a perfect posture for writing and reading.
  • And what’s more? The book and papers would be almost at right angles to the line of vision.

Higher Chairs

  • We seem to have been making chairs lower and lower to achieve the perfect right angle between body and spine at a time when pupils have been growing taller and taller.
  • The lower the seat the worse the angle of sitting. The rule of thumb is that chairs should be at least one third of our body height.
  • So height adjustable chairs and tables would fit the bill perfectly.

Higher Tables

  • When you lean forward to write, your elbow should be in contact with the surface of the table.
  • For most of us that means having tabletops up to 20 or 30cm higher than they are in most conventional furniture.

Choosing Tables and Chairs

  • Make sure that tables and chairs you order to go together are in the same grade.
  • No ages are recommended by the sizes due to the varying individuals in each class.
  • If you find that you need too many different heights in a classroom, or the same furniture will be used by a variety of age groups, we suggest you consider height adjustable furniture.
  • If you are in doubt as to sizes, please ask for a sample.