Choosing School Desks & Tables

Choosing a desk is not just about picking the right shape and size for your classroom. The latest government research has found that around three children in every classroom suffer from some type of back disorder, often as a result of sitting in poor positions whilst learning.

To maximise the comfort of your students, and to reduce the likelihood of osteopathic injury, your furniture choices should always be compliant with the European standard for table and chair heights. EN1729 was overhauled in 2007, and updated in 2015, and sets out the acceptable chair and table dimensions for children at different age stages, designed to discourage postural errors and slouching.

Desk height

For classroom desks, the recommended sizes are:

  • Nursery: 460 – 508mm
  • Pre-school: 530 – 546mm
  • Infant: 584 – 590mm
  • Junior: 635 – 640mm
  • Small adult: 698 – 710mm
  • Large adult: 760mm

Many of our desks come with adjustable legs, which can make it easy to tailor them to the correct height for your pupils. This is especially important in rooms where several age groups will share the same space, such as computer suites and science labs.


School desks come in a variety of styles and finishes, designed to suit your needs and budget. Desks with storage can be useful if your pupils sit at the same desk every day, whereas plain desks with no storage can be more flexible and easier to stack. Here are some of the choices you’ll have, and the benefits and drawbacks of each:

  • Lifting lid/locker desks: These desks replicate the old school desks. They are useful for storing children’s work, personal possessions and stationary, but require the top to be cleared before access is available. These cannot usually be stacked.
  • Crush bent desks: Popular frames which allows desks to be stacked up to 10 high. Choose from a range of desktop shapes; rectangular, square, trapezoidal, circular and semi-circular. Available in a range of edge, frame and top colours to suit your own colour scheme.
  • Fully welded desks: Sturdy, durable steel frame provides extra stability. Same choice of desktop shapes and colour options as the crush bent desks.
  • Height adjustable desks: Single or double height adjustable desks offer a bit more flexibility to your classroom. Simple, manual adjustment allows desks to be easily and instantly raised or lowered. Wide choice of desktops and colour options. Some of these desks are also DDA compliant for wheelchair users.
  • Uniquely shaped desks: For younger children, choosing a unique shaped desk can add interest and excitement to the classroom environment. From arcs to clovers, flowers to horseshoes, you can create an inspirational classroom with these fun designs. However, if you are pushed for space, these desks can sometimes be less efficient than regular shaped alternatives, and usually don’t stack.
  • Regular shaped desks: Circular, square, semi-circular or trapezoidal… the choice is yours. Using regular shaped classroom desks usually means you have the advantage of being able to stack and store your desks if you need to free up floor space, and you’ll have lots of options for different arrangements to suit different activities in the classroom.
  • Exam desks: Small, individual exam desks are usually best for solo working. Choose from stacking, nesting or folding models, making it easy to store these desks when not in use. Older students may be able to use these for presentations and lectures, but they are not often useful for younger pupil’s classrooms.
  • Multi-person workstations: These designs can be used by numerous pupils but also allow each student their own personal workspace due to the dividers. Ideal as school computer workstations within ICT suites. 

Thinking about how your desks will be used, by whom and how often, will help you make a decision on what desks to buy. Consider whether you’ll need to stack them, to move them often or to change the layout of your room from time to time.


The top of the desk is the part which gets all the use, and the part which is usually damaged first, so choosing the right materials for the top can ensure your investment lasts. Desk tops come in different materials, each of which will be suited to different applications. For instance:

  • Wood: Lovely and natural feeling, but heavy and easily marked / damaged, both by pen marks and by denting or sharp objects.
  • Plastic: Can be hard or soft plastic and are tough, hard to damage and highly durable.
  • Laminate: The least expensive option, laminate is a wooden top with a shiny surface that makes wiping off marks easy. However, these are susceptible to denting and impact damage.

Desk legs are almost always made from steel, with either a powder coated finish, epoxy coating or a plain metal finish. The choice is yours to make, but plain metal or epoxy coated metal will tend to look good for longer and be more scratch resistant than powder coated alternatives.


Choosing the right desks for your classroom will mean picking the right features for your needs too. Think about whether you need:

  • Height adjustment: Height adjustable classroom tables can make desks more flexible for different students, but adds to the cost and weight a little.
  • Modular: Having desks which can be grouped together in different shapes can help with group projects, and can make your space more flexible.
  • Stacking: Do you need to stack your tables up? Crush bent tables tend to be best for stacking, but other options are available too.
  • Storage: Do your pupils need to store items in their desk? Would a lifting top be useful, or would trays underneath be better?
  • Glides or feet: What is your floor covering like? Carpeted floors require the use of glides for easy movement, whereas hard floors are better for separate legged desks.

Figuring out which of these features are going to be most useful to you will help you decide which models of desk are most suitable for your needs.


As well as desks for pupils, you might be looking for tables for displays, for activities and for special projects or events. Here, we’ll help you decide what sort of table you’re looking for, and will help you decide on the right model for your needs.

Types of table

What you intend to use your table for will inform the type of table you need to buy. Our tables come in many shapes and forms, but can broadly be categorised as:

  • Activity tables: Large and versatile, our children’s activity tables are suited to all sorts of arts, crafts and project work. The wipe clean laminate top means they are easy to care for, and the fully welded frame with T-bar means you’ll get the extra strength, stability and height you need to encourage creative working.
  • Project tables: Our oversized project and school laboratory tables are useful for all sorts of large scale work, group work and design work. The hard-wearing laminate top and sturdy frame means it’s built to last, and the large work surface of up to 3,000mm width means it can accommodate everything from big design projects to group work and meetings.
  • Science lab tables: Our science lab tables are just as hard wearing and sturdy as our H frame tables, but also feature a Trespa top and edge, designed to resist heat, chemical damage, water and general wear. Trespa is stain resistant to all chemicals if cleaned within 24 hours, so no matter what your little Einsteins get up to, your tables will still look their best. These are also a great choice for home economics and technology studios too.
  • Tilt top tables: Sometimes you need tables that can be just a bit more flexible, and our tilt top tables for schools are the perfect solution. Choose from trapezoidal, rectangular or semi-circular designs, all of which come with lockable castors for easy movement and safe placement of the tables. Once folded down, these tables nest together neatly, making them a top choice for use in halls and meeting rooms where they frequently need to be stored away.
  • Folding tables: Chances are, your dining room is a multipurpose area. At lunchtime it’s full of tables, chairs, children and food, but at other times it’s a gym, a theatre, a meeting room and a play space. This means your dining tables need to be lightweight, flexible and, most importantly, foldable. The GoPak range of lightweight folding tables are the ideal solution for this job, offering a range of shapes and sizes with accompanying benches and even trolleys for moving them from place to place.

Hopefully you can now make a more informed choice of the type of table you require, and an understanding of the pros and cons of different types of school tables. For further information on purchasing school desks and classroom tables, contact us for help on choosing the right education furniture for your school. 

Related Articles:

Considerations When Choosing Education Furniture

Choosing Chairs For Your Classroom

Top Tips For Classroom Design