The educational furniture industry is fast growing and has a huge market, worth more than £400 million (at manufacturers’ prices). It covers furniture that is used in schools and colleges, including classroom tables and chairs, shelves, storage, science benches, computer workstations, trolleys, as well as floor and window coverings. It is a specialist market, as furniture used in the classroom is not generally the type that you would find in the home. (The only area where perhaps conventional furniture would be appropriate would be in the school administrator and head teacher’s offices).
As well as an increase in the last decade in the spending by both the private and public sector on educational furniture, there have been many developments in the products available to educational institutions. There is much more emphasis now on aesthetics, durability and flexibility. Increasingly young people are staying on at school too, so there has also been an increase in student numbers.
BS standards on educational furniture
There are standards (BS EN 1729) regulating the dimensions, strength and stability of educational furniture that apply to tables and chairs. Recommendations are made for students’ heights and the appropriate size of the seat in relation to the measurements of the working surface. This ensures the correct seating posture. Product safety is also monitored to make sure it will stand up to the use it will be put to in a classroom.
For example, children up to four years of age (so about 800-950mm tall) will be given seats 210mm high and a table that will be 400mm. By age 14 however, the chair height recommended for use in classrooms will be 430mm and the table height will have gone up to 710mm. Measurements are also given for high stools and tables (like for science labs or home economics classrooms).
What is different about educational furniture?
As well as needing to be scaled down for smaller children, the school environment is very tough on furniture. Educational furniture is generally made to a much higher specification for strength and durability. It is checked carefully for safety specifically that it will last in a rugged classroom environment.
Educational furniture includes furniture used by pre-school toddler’s right up to university students, or any other training facility for that matter, incorporating a huge range of items that are used in schools. For example, storage in schools comes in a wide choice: trays, cupboards, art storage, open storage, cloakroom furniture, lunch-box storage, shelving, classroom organizers. There are many storage solutions that are useful in the classroom, as well as conventional style filing cabinets that are used in the school office or head teacher’s office.
Pre-school and nursery is another special area, where soft furniture, play carpets, mats and cushions feature strongly. Furniture for early years’ learners tends to be much more colourful, easily adjustable for height, and specially designed for growing children.
Classroom furniture is more than just tables and chairs and includes things like cloakroom furniture, folding chairs, computer work stations, moveable partitions, room dividers, wall displays, mats and play rugs, exam desks, science benches, soft seats, tables in all shapes and sizes, filing cabinets, teachers’ desks, cupboards, trolleys – the list is very long.
In addition to furniture for the classroom, schools usually have canteens that need furnishing; libraries that need shelving solutions as well as reading corners and library tables (maybe round and very different to classroom tables); stage decks, plinths and risers; notice boards, whiteboards, easels, roller boards, display boards and screens. The school office might need more conventional furniture like visitors’ chairs, office filing cabinets, a reception counter and office desks. The staff room will need adult sized furniture that is suitable to use to relax between lessons or to get to work on marking.
Educational furniture is a special area of its own. Meeting the needs of schools and colleges, the seating, tables and all the other furniture that is used has to meet high quality standards as well as come in the whole range of sizes for students of different ages. Whether the students are pre-school or kindergarten babes or adults studying at college, the principle of appropriate furniture to the job remains the same.
Written by Marianne Heredge for educational furniture supplier Perfect Concepts.
Image credit: Wikipedia