Progressivist furniture?

I’ve not quite waded into the dichotomous debates about traditional v progressive that are all over the blogosphere at the moment. I think I don’t hold fixed views yet. When everything was too progressive, it irritated the hell out of me and I wanted to throw my spelling rules in the faces of leaders who gave the impression I was committing a crime by teaching in that way. I’m still annoyed by the entrenched attitudes towards the teaching of maths in primary school, but that’s a whole other story. Now I’m starting to feel the need to defend some progressive ideas against the onslaught and oversimplification that I see, but I’m resisting getting involved because I’m not attached enough. I think there is a middle way that works and has done for a long time.

But there is one thing that I’m very sure of. School desks with flip top lids. I wish they had never thrown them away (I couldn’t rescue all of them!) and I want them back! I know they made a noise when they were slammed. I know they could be hidden behind for a quick gossip. I know they could harbour any number of mouldering cheese sandwiches. But for me, they worked. I long for the days when pupils could put work away, take books out or clear their desks in one easy action. Now we have banks of trays which take up room and are conducive to disturbances when swapping resources, and we have bookcases dedicated just to holding pupil exercise books, which could be much better used for something else. Modern furniture in schools is awful or expensive – sometimes both.

That’s a not too ancient picture of my old school, by the way! It hasn’t changed at all since I was there in the 70s. It’s still one of the best primary schools in the city, perhaps the country.


5 thoughts on “Progressivist furniture?

  1. Yes to that!! I actually gave an INSET at a school which has them!! Some are joined up into mini groups, others are individual. It is so much more flexible and tidy!! I sat both in groups and with individual desks and I loved the latter and I was more mature as I felt responsible for my books and things!!

    • Our pupils are always asking if they can have their tables in the old Victorian style of arrangement. Two things deter me: the disapproval of senior leaders and the lack of space. Every now and then, I just do it.

  2. I know that is the ridiculous thing about grouping them – the majority of every class I have taught from Years 2 – 6 have all said they want their own table!!! So much for listening to the child!!!

  3. OMG I am WITH YOU on this! Our classroom is too small as it is and a simple, ownership-giving and space-saving solution such as this would be fantastic to have. And yes, the children in my class compete for use of the couple of tables that are on their own (I have them there for children who struggle/on spectrum etc) too.

    You know, I sometimes think those Victorians who designed the traditional, individual flip-top desk (and other amazing engineering feats that we still benefit from today), might’ve actually been quite nice people who really cared about the education of children.

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