Classroom teaching methods 'unseated' at Poplar school

Standing or sitting... pupils choose what's best

Standing or sitting... pupils choose what's best - Credit: Mayflower School

Children are making a stand in the classroom against traditional learning at Poplar’s Mayflower Primary School. 

They can’t stay still most of the time — so the dreaded “sit down” command from teachers has gone out the window. 

The pupils instead are allowed to explore what works for them during lesson time. 

That means moving around from desk to desk or workspace — and doing their work at new ‘standing’ desks that have been installed at Mayflower rather than staying glued to a seat all the time. 

The standing desks letting children move around naturally while learning is the idea of a company called I Want A Standing Desk, the first in the country designing them specifically for the classroom.  

“Sitting still can be a real struggle for some pupils,” the company’s founder Nick White explained. “No child was born to sit still — they’re simply not programmed that way."

But it wasn't just fidgety behaviour distracting them during lessons.  

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“Childhood obesity is also rising with sedentary time increasing as a result of the pandemic," Nick added. "So the more we encourage children to get up out of their seats the better for their health.” 

The primary school in Upper North Street is one of 400 in Britain now using standing desks, with teachers now noticing better behaviour and concentration, as well as pupils developing neater handwriting.  

Traditional classroom seating at Mayflower School in 2017... now out the window?

Traditional classroom seating at Mayflower School in 2017... now out the window? - Credit: Mike Brooke

Expecting children to sit on the floor or at desks for long periods can distract them or at worst make them disruptive, it was felt. They didn’t need to sit still the whole time.  

Assistant headteacher Heba Al-Jayoosi explained: “Children don’t learn any less if they wobble, bounce, lean, rock or stand. 

“We knew some preferred standing and others were constantly moving around. An occupational therapist suggested standing desks which have been so successful that we’ve introduced them in every classroom."

Standing desks give children “a choice to see what works for them”, the school has found.  

Now Mayflower is leading a UK research project that is looking at flexible seating and how it affects youngsters, especially those with autism. The study is "standing up to scrutiny". 

Standing arrangement... pupils choose how they learn in class

Standing arrangement... pupils choose how they learn in class - Credit: Mike Brooke