School furniture - a new standard is needed
Students choose better than European Standard
School furniture ought to create a conditions for a good posture, and ability to switch between active sitting and a a resting position. The furniture needs to be adjusted to the height of the child. Seat inclination, seat height, table height and footrest position can when correct provide conditions for good sitting ergonomics. Good sitting ergonomics in a working position means that the pelvis is in a neutral or forward-tilted position, the back is straight and the neck is in line with the back. The feet can be placed under the chair. The thighs point "downward”. Most important is to take into account the height of the chair, if it is too low, the person sitting will get a backward tilted pelvis, a rounded back which leads to weakness, short muscles, hyperextended neck position and impaired balance. In many classrooms, the chair seat height is the same even if the height of the children can vary up to 40 centimeters. Table height and table angle also affect the seating position but the foundation for good posture is the correct chair height.
The Swedish National Agency for Education does not give recommendations regarding ordering school furniture and ergonomics. There is also lack of knowledge from those who determine the standard for school furniture and furniture companies. Many companies manufacture chairs with completely different designs without explaining why and how they are meant to meet the need of the person in the chair. It is common to recommend furniture that is suitable for elementary school when the children go to high school. Some want to use chairs as exercise tools and create an unstable seating area.
To the left is a picture of "Sitting children". The picture is taken from a survey conducted in Denmark. Schoolchildren had to sit according to European standard and then adjust the chair and table to a position that they found comfortable. The boy to the left is in accordance with the recommendations of the European Standard. The picture to the right shows how the children want to sit if they can choose themselves - a good working position with a straight back.
Today, children sit a lot. It is therefore more important than before to create an environment where they can sit with a good posture. The dynamic sitting position allows shifting between activity and rest and is natural and follows principles of sitting ergonomics, postural control and motor development.
The book “Sitting Children” give a basic review of the details of sitting ergonomics. It explains how postural muscles work, how the eyes and head position control activity throughout the body. The book contains tables with recommendations regarding seat and table height at different ages in school. There are tables for individual children (DYNSA manual) and in whole class, where you can easily evaluate school furniture and plan for action. At present the book “Sitting children” is only available in Swedish. An English translation is underway.
The book "Sitting children" started as a guide for ordering school furniture. Unfortunately, neither the "European standard" or recommendations from the furniture companies are founded in knowledge of ergonomics. With knowledge schools can create a work environment that provides a basis for being able to sit and work in the classroom. For physical education teachers who teach ergonomics, the book is a tool with many pictures. Children sit many hours a day, often with a poor neck position, and it is common for children to experience pain in the neck and back. The part of the book that deals with ergonomics in sitting, will help you change poor sitting and provide security in ordering new furniture to different age groups.