Rearranging the desks


When primary schools reopen in September, they are advised to have forward facing desks in all classrooms.

When was the last forward facing desk phased out in primary education I wonder?  When I was a pupil at the primary school I’m now a governor of, we sat at circular desks and happily moved around the classroom to sit crossed-legged on the carpet for story time.

How long ago was that? At least (whisper it) thirty years ago.

How will the children respond to this new, more structured approach? What will the affect be on behaviour and learning? Will the teachers feel liberated or constrained?

It will be a fascinating experiment and one of the many opportunities schools should seize as a result of the lockdown.

I’m not hankering for a return to Victorian values or structure. Far from it. Now is the time to develop a new, different and better 21st century education.

Schools were given the freedom and opportunity to develop their own curriculums well before lockdown when Ofsted made this statement in 2019:

We want to make sure that good results flow from teaching a broad, rich curriculum and reflect real learning, not just intensive preparation for a test.

Now is the time to connect all the dots, to see the signs that have been there for so long, and create a new more inspiring approach to primary education.

It’s time to change the national approach to teaching and learning which has cut art, music, dance, drama and all the creative arts to the bone in most schools. Creativity must have equal status and time to reading, writing and maths. There should be far more sport for all, every day.

What kept people sane and happy during lockdown? Art and baking!  What did we long for like never before when we couldn’t go out? Being outside, involved with nature or playing sport!  What did people share for free to spread joy and happiness across the world? Music!

We’ve been given permission to abandon SATs this year. Let’s now grab this glorious opportunity to reinvent our schools and our children’s learning. Like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, the direction of the desks is irrelevant.  It’s the direction of education that matters.

Nicky Smith is a governor of Bloxham C of E Primary School. These are her own personal views and do not represent the views of the school governing body.