Do we need higher aspirations for educational furniture?

Chris Salt, from ABC Desks, explains the role furniture has to playing in learning, and offers advice on buying techniques

When purchasing – consider:

Start with the end in mind – what does the furniture needs to do & look like
IT educational furniture should be to BS EN 1729 standards
Often manufacturers need 6-8 weeks’ lead time,
Guarantees should cover at least 3-5 years – will it last even longer? 15-20 years?
Ensure that you have the freedom to choose – don’t get trapped by buying groups
(they are often more expensive)
Is it flexible to class room needs and movable
Able to form pods, islands or rows for different groups sizes and learning structures
Perform due diligence – talk to lots of suppliers and manufacturers

As IT spreads into almost every aspect of learning – music rooms, language labs, science rooms, ICT suites and beyond – should we expect the furniture which supports IT to easily adapt to changes in IT (every 3-4 years) and different classroom uses, and be rugged, easy to repair, and upgrade?

When purchasing have a hierarchy of buying decisions based upon functionality and cost:

Upgrade existing furniture/benching
low cost benching
desks that can be islands, pods, rows, etc
Specific bespoke configurations

A recent government report said that we need to “organise design to suit new ways of learning and recognise the impact of furniture and equipment on the learning process”.

Each speciality – outdoor spaces furniture, ICT suites, science labs, etc – tend to be supplied by specialist companies. Talk to them to find out what is best principle best practise in each sector.

I recently observed a new-build school purchase four laptop charging trolleys which took a full time IT technician to keep the 320 laptops charged, which caused considerable disruption to lessons. This could have been achieved without the need for a technician’s time and charging trolleys by buying the correct desking solutions.

As budgets become more difficult in the years to come, we need to advance the design capabilities and desking functions, while going back to a time when durability/repair/upgrade capabilities were a standard expectation.

Single use desks will become a thing of the past as multi-use learning spaces and tight budgets demand more, for longer.

The difficulty is, how and where, can you get this level of impartial, informed advice?

Chris Salt
01684 562341