Once children are in secondary school, they will spend around 78 per cent of their time sitting down in a chair. Although primary school and early years classrooms tend to encourage more movement, even the youngest children spend a significant amount of time in their chair.
Uncomfortable seating which promotes poor posture can lead to back problems later in life, so it’s important to start as we mean to go on. Choosing the right size and style of chair for pupils can help them develop a healthy posture, and will ensure they are comfortable and not distracted during their lessons. Here’s what you need to think about when buying school chairs.
Classroom chair height is measured from the floor to the top of the seat (the place where your bottom would rest). Each age group has a suggested chair size which is based on an average height and weight of a child of that age, and which has been defined Europe-wide under the new EN1729 standard:
- Nursery: 260 – 300mm
- Pre-school: 310 – 340mm
- Infant: 350 – 370mm
- Junior: 380 – 400mm
- Teens and small adults: 430 – 450mm
- Adults: 460 – 480mm
Of course, you don’t need to purchase larger chairs for every year in the school. Most infants (age 5 – 8) will be fine in the infant chairs right up until the end of Key Stage 1. However, if your class is on the cusp of two sizes and you’re not sure if your students are typically ‘average’ size, go for something larger rather than smaller to ensure they can be accommodated.
If you are kitting out a room that is going to be used by a wide range of ages, for example your IT suite or science lab, you should choose height adjustable chairs so that everyone can sit comfortably.
School chairs tend to be manufactured from one of three materials: wood, soft plastic or hard plastic. Wood is a fairly self-explanatory material, but what exactly are hard and soft plastics, and which one is right for you?
Hard plastics are a rigid form of plastic, developed for the ultimate in durability and stiffness so they never go out of shape. They don’t bend at all, so are fairly tough to sit in, but they do offer chip resistance and non-warping for an excellent lifespan.
Soft plastic, on the other hand, is made from polypropylene or polyethylene plastic, and tends to be slightly cheaper than hard plastic or wood. They offer a bit of flex and bend, enabling students to lean back slightly in their seats, and are generally more comfortable if sitting for long periods.
You may also see school chairs made from vinyl and upholstery, which can offer a more comfortable seat for older children. Primary schools tend to steer away from fabric chairs, as they can be more difficult to keep clean, but they are very comfortable to sit in, so well worth considering.
Choosing a colour for your chairs really comes down to personal preference. Many of our chairs are available in a wide range of colourways, designed to complement any colour scheme you choose. A lot of school buyers like to match their chair colours to the colours of the school. Others like to use a different colour in each classroom, so that the chairs don’t end up in the wrong place.
The legs and supports of school chairs come in three different arrangements:
- Four leg frame: This is best for the majority of classrooms with either tiled or wooden floors. They will slide easily in and out and will provide stability for your students.
- Sled /skid base: This is an arrangement where the front and back legs on each side are joined by a ‘sled’ style bar. These frames are anti tilt and will slide easily on carpet.
- Castor base: Chairs with castors or classroom swivel chairs that feature wheels are generally used by older children and adults and tend to be best for use in IT suites.
- Stools: Classroom stools are used alongside higher level desks. Lab stools don’t usually include a backrest as they are often placed in classrooms where pupils are standing for the majority of the lesson (for example; science labs and art rooms)
You may also find you’ve got a choice of frame finishes or colours, which comes down to personal preference. You will find that metal finishes, such as plain chrome, will still look good in many years, whereas even a powder coated colour may become scratched or damaged over time. Epoxy coated frames tend to last well too, but again the finish will come down to your preferences and your colour scheme in the room.
Will you need to stack your chairs? Most classrooms require chairs to be stacked at least during the holidays, so that the room can receive a deep clean. For areas like assembly halls and dining rooms, stacking the chairs may be a daily occurrence, so you’ll want to choose a design that stacks safely and easily together.
As a general rule, four legged chairs will stack a lot easier than sled bottomed chairs, and most castor chairs will not stack at all. You should be able to find a guide on individual products as to the safe stacking height, which tends to range from just three or four chairs up to ten or twelve for some models. Folding chairs can stack really easily, and are a good solution if you need to store them away when they are not in use.