Choosing the right seating for schools


It’s not easy to pick the right seating for your school or education building. You have many people to please; teachers, students, premises managers, budget holders… the list goes on. Each group has different needs, requirements, desires and influence. But as head teacher or deputy head how can you get the balance right when choosing the right seating for schools?

Well the first thing you got to do is set the parameters. What is driving the decision – is it function, is it style, is it effect or is it simply budget? While everyone may have different input to this decision making process nobody is better placed than head teachers and deputy heads to make this decision. You are the ones with a strong foothold and understand of both the practicality’s of running a classroom and the business side of running a school. You can see both sides and remain objective. Take feedback on-board from all stakeholders, but use it to help your decision making, rather than decide for you. Having a clear goal will make the process much easier down the line.

Align your driving factor for choosing the right chair with the overall goals for the school. If your school is aiming to be the best results achieving school in west London then you don’t want shoddy chairs distracting students or contributing to a lack of focus. Similarly if your school’s goal is simply to handle the ever growing number of kids you don’t want the fanciest in vogue chairs on the market. You want tough, durable and flexible chairs that can handle the rough and tumble of a big, expanding school.

When you have your main criteria for “the right chair”, search the market. Find the suppliers that produce what you are after. You can use google or an education retailer or a specialist seating company (a bit like SB Seating!!). You can assess multiple suppliers or multiple chairs from the same supplier also. You want to make sure both the product and the supplier are fit for purpose.

Check the background of suppliers carefully. What guarantee is offered with the chairs? Do they do the installation and set up? If necessary, will user training be provided? Look for awards and accreditations that show they are a reputable organisation.

Also check the quality of the chair, in real terms. That means at least having a sample chair brought in but ideally having a loan chair you can put in a live environment and get real user feedback on. You can of course trial several chairs simultaneously but be sure you set this up in an objective way. There is no point 10 users’ trialling one chair and 10 different users’ trialling the other. You need consistency and comparability so put some thought and effort into planning any chair trails in your school. And if a supplier isn’t willing to provide trail chairs you might want to look into the reasoning of this. Most suppliers confident in their chairs will have no hesitation in letting you test their product.

When choosing the right chair for your school you have to remember that user feedback will often be subjective. You as head teacher need to take the feedback provided and decide what’s relevant and what’s too subjective. If you listen to everyone you could end up with 10 different chairs for one classroom and that’s not an option. Be objective and fair and you will find the right balance.

Finally, look at the bigger picture. Look at things like effects on focus, expected lifetime, interchangeability of parts (if something breaks as it often does) service level agreements available and longevity of supply (if you look for a spare part in 3 years’ time will the supplier still be in business?) All these factors help determine the overall cost or more appropriately, the value of a chair. What might look like good value up front could end up costing you a lot more in the long run. Don’t take a myopic view on this. Keep one eye on the future and it will serve you well.

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