Educational furniture buying guide

Contents

Introduction

Before we begin

Chairs and seating

Desks

Tables

Other school furniture

Top tips for classroom design

Best practices when buying educational furniture

Further information

Introduction

With pressures of OFSTED, budget cuts and everything else that goes with running a school, thinking about your educational furniture choices might not be high on your list of priorities. With many schools increasingly strapped for cash, however, making good choices which will serve your school into the future is a crucial part of the procurement process.

School administrators have an exciting and important role to play in creating a positive environment which is conducive to learning. Choosing school furniture is one way in which they can positively impact the atmosphere in the school, so making good choices is essential. Bright, interesting classrooms with cheerful displays will create a more positive experience for the students than one which is grey and drab.

Going over the top on the colourful, busy image of the classroom can actually create a distraction for some children and may end up being a negative influence on the learning process. As well as the aesthetics, buying choices have to take into account comfort, size, space, quality, durability and, of course, budget, meaning there is more to buying educational furniture than might first meet the eye.

Whether you’re designing a brand-new school from scratch or are updating an existing one, our educational furniture buying guide is designed to help you make the right decisions for the right reasons, and to think through your purchase in a logical, thoughtful way. Your choices could impact on many future groups of students, so let’s make sure we get it right from the start.

Before we begin

Before you can start shopping for new classroom furniture, there are a few things you’ll need to think about so you can go into the buying process well informed and well prepared.

Questions to ask yourself

Ask yourself these questions to start to get an understanding of what sort of furniture you’re going to need.

  • What is my teaching style? Collaborative learning may benefit from modular desks, which can be used in group situations as well as individual workstations. If you like to get the children up and moving, choosing stackable or easy to store desks will help. If you use a lot of videos or presentations, you’ll need to focus on theatre size seating, or if you prefer to have breakout groups, a cabaret style layout could work better for you.
  • What is my budget? This should be agreed prior to even beginning to look, as you can always spend more on better quality items. Decide where your price point will lie, and you’ll be able to choose the best quality and value items within your limitations.
  • How much space do I have? If your classroom is tight on space, having folding, stacking or easily manoeuvrable furniture will help you make the space more flexible. If you have acres of space, you could opt for something more unique, like curved or flower shaped desks.
  • Who will be using it? If you’re fitting out a classroom for just one age group, the guidance offered by European Standard EN1729 provides recommendations as to the correct size of furniture to buy. However, if you’re fitting out a room used by a variety of students, such as a science lab or an IT room, you might need to opt for adjustable furniture so heights can be changed to suit different users.

Think about the obstructions in the room too. If there are pipes, doors or other items to contend with which can’t be moved, you’ll need to ensure you are making allowances for these things in your plans. It can be a good idea to draw out a scale model of your room on squared paper, and then to cut out scale templates for tables, chairs and storage units so that you can play around with the layout and see how different products will work.

Priorities for educational furniture

Whatever you’re looking to buy, whatever your budget and requirements, there are some features that all educational furniture should have in common, and which you should look for in your procurement journey:

  • Safety: Number one priority, without a doubt, is safety. Furniture for educational environments needs to be stable and safe for students to use, particularly for younger children. Chairs should not tip back easily, shelves should be sturdy and not feature finger pinching gaps. Furniture with moving parts should be easy to manoeuvre and lightweight to avoid hands and fingers getting stuck.
  • Durability: With many schools on increasingly limited budgets, buying furniture that’s built to last is a real necessity these days. Year after year, your chairs, tables and storage units will be put through the mill by hordes of students, so buying something robust and easy to maintain is crucial. Look for wipe clean surfaces, non-marking materials and solid, well-built products.
  • Flexibility: Smaller, more manoeuvrable chairs and tables allow greater flexibility in terms of classroom layout and flexibility. Think about the different activities you plan to undertake, the different ways in which your spaces are used, and choose furniture which allows freedom of movement and simple storage, so you can change and vary the layout at will.
  • Ergonomics: No matter the age of your students, care should be taken to purchase the right sized furniture for their height. Chairs and tables are particularly crucial, as working at a station which is too small or too big can cause long lasting problems with posture and damage to their backs.
  • Price: As part of your procurement process, you’re going to need to ensure your school is getting great value for money. That usually doesn’t mean buying the cheapest thing available though, as this could result in poor quality products with short life spans. Try and balance costs with quality, and choose items that fit within your budget without compromising on any of the other essential features we’ve discussed here.

Looking at every potential piece of furniture with these key issues in mind will help you narrow down your choices and reduce the stress involved in buying classroom furniture.

The British and European Educational Furniture Standard

Over recent years, a new standard has been introduced relating to educational furniture. European Standard EN1729, last reviewed in 2015, specifies the functional dimensions and marketing for all tables, desks, stools and chairs to be used in an educational environment. The standard specifies the correct heights for desks and chairs for each stage of a child’s development, each of which is colour coded by its feet, which are:

  • Size mark: 1. Age guide: 3-4. Foot colour code: Orange.
    Chair seat height: 260mm. Table height: 460mm.
  • Size mark: 2. Age guide: 4-6. Foot colour code: Violet.
    Chair seat height: 310mm. Table height: 530mm.
  • Size mark: 3. Age guide: 6-8. Foot colour code: Yellow.
    Chair seat height: 350mm. Table height: 590mm.
  • Size mark: 4. Age guide: 8-11. Foot colour code: Red.
    Chair seat height: 380mm. Table height: 640mm.
  • Size mark: 5. Age guide: 11-14. Foot colour code: Green.
    Chair seat height: 430mm. Table height: 710mm.
  • Size mark: 6. Age guide: 14+. Foot colour code: Blue.
    Chair seat height: 460mm. Table height: 760mm.

The standard does not specify the design of tables or chairs, so you are still free to choose any colours, upholstering, design or features at will, but sticking to these sizes will ensure good posture and comfortable seating is promoted in your classroom. These don’t apply to specialist workstations or to desks for teaching staff. You can find more information on the EN1729 standard here.

Chairs and seating

Once our children are in secondary school, they will spend around 78 per cent of their time sitting down in a chair. Although primary school and early years classrooms tend to encourage more movement, even the littlest children in our schools spend a significant amount of time in their chair.

Uncomfortable seating which promotes poor posture can lead to back problems later in life, so it’s important to start as we mean to go on. Choosing the right size and style of chair for our little learners (or big ones) can help them develop a healthy posture, and will ensure they are comfortable and not distracted during their lessons. Here’s what you need to think about when buying chairs for school.

Seat height

Classroom chair height is measured from the floor to the top of the seat (the place where your bottom would rest). Each age group has a suggested chair size which is based on an average height and weight of a child of that age, and which has been defined Europe wide under the new EN1729 standard:

  • Nursery: 260 – 300mm
  • Pre-school: 310 – 340mm
  • Infant: 350 – 370mm
  • Junior: 380 – 400mm
  • Teens and small adults: 430 – 450mm
  • Adults: 460 – 480mm

Of course, you don’t need to purchase larger chairs for every year in the school. Most infants (age 5 – 8) will be fine in the infant chairs right up until the end of Key Stage 1. However, if your class is on the cusp of two sizes and you’re not sure if your students are typically ‘average’ sizes, go for something larger rather than smaller to ensure they can be accommodated.

If you are kitting out a room that is going to be used by a wide range of ages, for example your IT suite or science lab, you should choose height adjustable chairs so that everyone can sit comfortably.

Material

School chairs tend to be manufactured from one of three materials: wood, soft plastic or hard plastic. Wood is a fairly self-explanatory material, but what exactly are hard and soft plastics, and which one is right for you?

Hard plastics are a rigid form of plastic, developed for the ultimate in durability and stiffness so they never go out of shape. They don’t bend at all, so are fairly tough to sit in, but they do offer chip resistance and non-warping for an excellent lifespan.

Soft plastic, on the other hand, is made from polypropylene or polyethylene plastic, and tend to be slightly cheaper than hard plastic or wood. They offer a bit of flex and bend, enabling students to lean back slightly in their seats, and are generally more comfortable if sitting for long periods.

You may also see school chairs made from vinyl and upholstery, which can offer a more comfortable seat for older children. Primary schools tend to steer away from fabric chairs, as they can be more difficult to keep clean, but they are very comfortable to sit in, so well worth considering.

Colour

Choosing a colour for your chairs really comes down to personal preference. Many of our chairs are available in a wide range of colourways, designed to complement any colour scheme you choose. A lot of school buyers like to match their chair colours to the colours of the school. Others like to use a different colour in each classroom, so that the chairs don’t end up in the wrong place.

Frame

The legs and supports of school chairs come in three different arrangements:

  • Four leg frame: This is best for the majority of classrooms with either tiled or wooden floors. They will slide easily in and out and will provide stability for your students.
  • Sled /skid base: This is an arrangement where the front and back legs on each side are joined by a ‘sled’ style bar. These frames are anti tilt and will slide easily on carpet.
  • Caster base: Chairs with casters are generally used by older children and adults, and tend to be best for use in art labs and IT suites.

You may also find you’ve got a choice of frame finishes or colours, which comes down to personal preference. You will find that metal finishes, such as plain chrome, will still look good in many years, whereas even a powder coated colour may become scratched or damaged over time. Epoxy coated frames tend to last well too, but again the finish will come down to your preferences and your colour scheme in the room.

Stacking

Will you need to stack your chairs? Most classrooms require chairs to be stacked at least during the holidays, so that the room can receive a deep clean. For areas like assembly halls and dining rooms, stacking the chairs may be a daily occurrence, so you’ll want to choose a design that stacks safely and easily together.

As a general rule, four legged chairs will stack a lot easier than sled bottomed chairs, and most castor chairs will not stack at all. You should be able to find a guide on individual products as to the safe stacking height, which tends to range from just three or four chairs up to ten or twelve for some models. Folding chairs can stack really easily, and are a good solution if you need to store them away when they are not in use.

If you do plan to stack your chairs frequently, you might want to add on a chair trolley to make it easier to move your chairs around. We supply chair trolleys for all stackable chairs in our range, as well as storage straps to ensure your stacked chairs are safe and secure.

Desks

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 ages 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 their height 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.

Style

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 many of us used as children. 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 frame 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 a more regular shape of desk 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 usually useful for younger pupil’s classrooms.

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. For more advice, you can talk to our team to get free, expert advice.

Material

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. Desks 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 (see chairs section for explanation) 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.

Features

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

  • Height adjustment: 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.

Tables

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 H frame 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 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 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.

Other school furniture

Although chairs, tables and desks are by far the most important and most frequently purchased items for any school, these alone do not make for a fun and functional learning environment. Think about what else you will need, and create the classroom you’ve always dreamed of.

Storage

By far the most popular type of school storage we sell is our tray storage solutions. Complete with the UK’s bestselling Gratnells trays, our tray storage solutions are available in a wide range of shapes, colours and sizes.

For individual student’s trays, our shallow tray storage units are ideal. From just six trays in a unit up to the mega 64 tray unit, you can choose the layout and style that best suits your needs. One of our best sellers is the 32 tray quad bay mobile storage unit, which has castors for easy movement and a double shelf at the top, perfect for placing letters to go home ready to be collected.

As well as shallow trays, you can choose from deep trays, box storage and combination cupboard and tray storage units. We can also help you out with bookcases, wardrobes, craft trays and other storage solutions, giving you plenty of choice and options to suit every need and budget.

With younger children, you can use our storage solutions to create learning centres within the classroom, making it easier for children to adopt independent play methods and to make it easier to tidy up at the end of the day. Think about creating:

  • A book corner: Using a low shelf or book slings for easy access to books
  • Art centre: Use see through boxes to store craft materials and art supplies
  • Building station: Use construction vehicles and Lego blocks stored in drawers to make a building area
  • Roleplay corner: Hang dressing up clothes to encourage roleplay games

Older children will appreciate having their own storage space, so consider installing lockers to give them a place to keep their books, stationary and items brought from home securely in the classroom. Allow them to personalise their locker with stickers or labels, safe in the knowledge that our school lockers are easy to clean at the end of the year. If you don’t have room for individual lockers, our colourful cloakroom hooks are a good alternative.

Specialist trolleys

If you have items that frequently need moving from one area to another, a specialist trolley can make this process easier and safer with every journey. For instance:

  • Music trolley: A multipurpose music trolley with bright colours and generous storage facilities. Holes in the top make it easy to store beaters, maracas and other small percussion instruments while the large drawers can be used for bigger instruments and music books.
  • AV trolley: For your projector, TV or other display equipment, an AV trolley is a better way to keep your equipment safe and manoeuvrable. The TV and video viewing cabinet is ideal for protecting your television and video or DVD recorder, whereas the media AV cabby has space for everything from projectors to speakers, DVD players and more.
  • Sports trolley: Having a sports trolley can make it easier to take the game wherever you want. With 6 jumbo trays to store loose equipment, a hook for hula hoops and a basket on top for racquets and balls, you’ll find it easy to keep all your PE equipment organised and tidy. Play in the hall, play in the playground or play in the field more easily with a handy sports trolley.

Outdoor furniture

When the sun is shining, there’s nothing better than to take the learning outside. Choosing some fun and sturdy outdoor school furniture can make it even easier to enjoy a breath of fresh air, and can double up as useful seating for children during play time.

Our star benches are the best way to make use of limited space, with their double-sided seating and vandal resistant construction, these are a top choice for all external applications. Strong ground fixing bolts are supplied with the product, helping you ensure they are safe to use and secure from theft. Available in 18 different colours to suit your school’s colours, these benches are made from 100 per cent recycled plastic, so you’ll be doing your bit for the environment too.

For fun seating for little ones, consider our jigsaw benches and bench sets. Best suited to Key Stage 1 (ages 5 – 8) and nursery children, these fun little seating and table sets are easy to clean and vandal resistant. For older children choose from our premier seating range, which is suitable for bigger kids and adults alike, and has been designed to be vandal resistant and easy to maintain.

Carpets and rugs

Nothing finishes off your classroom design quite so beautifully as a wonderful learning carpet or cosy corner rug for your little ones to enjoy. Our learning carpets are targeted at KS1 and nursery children, but can be fun for older children too. From telling the time to learning times tables, you can teach valuable information and brighten up your classroom all at once.

Our mini carpets are a great choice for occasional seating, and can even be used as part of a game, story or activity. All 14 small carpets pack away neatly into their own holdall for easy storage, and are fitted with non-slip backing to avoid any nasty accidents.

If you like to finish the day with a calming and refocussing story, our corner carpets are the perfect solution to create a little story corner. Our small models will fit a group of around eight children, whereas the whole class can easily fit on our bigger corner carpets. If you haven’t got a spare corner, we also sell the same fun designs in accommodating rectangular models, giving you more choice of where to place them.

As well as carpets and rugs, we can supply a whole range of soft furnishings which are ideal for early years or for children with additional sensory needs. From cosy cushions to giant floor creatures, your classroom will look more fun than ever before.

Top tips for classroom design

Did you know that the layout of your classroom can have a significant impact on the way your students learn? Maybe you never thought too deeply about it, and just adopted whatever layout other teachers in your school were using. However, taking the time to organise the classroom in a way which is conducive to your own teaching style is sure to have an impact on your pupil’s attention and absorption of information.

Researchers at the University of Salford conducted a study into different classroom designs, and how they could impact the learning progress of pupils. They looked at primary school pupils and tried different arrangements of tables and chairs to see how their learning was affected. What they found was that by designing a ‘clever classroom’, learning could be accelerated by up to 16 per cent over the course of a year.

Of all the variables they tested, the ones which were found to be most influential on learning were:

  • Naturalness: The lighting, temperature and air quality
  • Individualisation: The flexibility of the design and ownership
  • Stimulation: The colours, complexity of design and level of stimulation in the environment

As a result of the study, they published a set of guidelines for designers to help them create classrooms which were optimally designed for learning. We’ve summarised these guidelines here to help you create the perfect classroom environment too.

Naturalness of the environment

  • Light: Large glazing is good if it faces north, west or east. Large glazing facing south should be shaded to avoid glare. If not enough glazing is available, high quality electric lighting should be provided. Keep windows clear from clutter to allow plenty of natural light and good views of the outside.
  • Air: Ventilation should be abundant, with options to open different windows and at different levels. Classrooms should have enough volume for the number of people in the space, and air quality monitors (CO2 monitors) can flag up problems early on which could be affecting learning. Air conditioning which doesn’t draw in fresh air can mask the poor quality of air in the room and can create cold areas.
  • Temperature: Radiators with thermostatic valves allow the most responsive and personally beneficial control of heat. Underfloor heating tends to lag, and is not easy to control.
  • Sound: Schools near to roads or noisy neighbourhoods could use tactics like embankments, plants and other features to break up the noise. Classrooms can benefit from noise absorbing materials on walls and ceilings, and from soft furnishings and rubber feet on furniture.
  • Nature: If possible, the classroom should have a pleasant aspect, looking out over green spaces and landscape. Window sills should be at or below children’s eye level. Plants in the classroom can help bring nature indoors, and can improve air quality, and choosing wooden furniture can make the room feel more natural and pupils more connected with nature.

Individualisation

  • Flexibility: For younger children, a more complex design with ‘stations’ for different activities is good, whereas older children will benefit from a larger area with simpler design. Wall areas for displays should be available, and using low level furniture will ensure more space is freed up. A breakout space near to classrooms can be useful for one to one and small group support.
  • Ownership: Pupils work should be used in displays, helping them to feel more connected to their classroom. Letting them personalise some aspects of the room, such as their peg, locker or drawer, will help them create a sense of belonging. Choose quality, ergonomic furniture to help them feel cared for and comfortable.
  • Connection: Corridors should be free from clutter to allow easy movement, and having eye-catching displays at junctions or outside classrooms can help children orientate themselves when moving around the school. Having library facilities in wide corridors or atriums around the school has shown to be beneficial for reading progress.

Stimulation

  • Colours: Don’t overdo it when it comes to colour in the classroom. Light walls with one feature wall in a bold colour provide stimulation without going overboard. Other bright colours using furniture, rugs and blinds can add additional accents to the space.
  • Complexity: The floor plan of the classroom can make it more or less interesting, with visual highlights to stimulate curiosity. Balancing complexity effectively is crucial, whilst also maintaining functionality of the space.
  • Displays: Wall displays add a lively sense of fun to the classroom, but too much on the walls can make it feel oppressive and confusing. Try to retain about 20 – 50 per cent of the available wall space as clear area to avoid overdoing the displays.

Getting the design of your room right can be easy if your school is just being built. However, the majority of us are working with pre-existing buildings, and rooms that are a legacy from whoever worked there before us. Figure out what cannot be changed, and instead of feeling down about it, see how you can work with it to create the classroom of your dreams. Accept the things you cannot change, and use the things you do have control over to make it all work together.

Using colour in the classroom

Numerous studies have been done to help us understand the psychology of colour, and how it affects the people in the space. Different colours can affect our psychology and physiology, sometimes soothing us and sometimes stimulating us. Applying what is known about colour psychology to your classroom design is a crucial step in creating an effective learning space.

In a study of college students, researchers found that:

  • Green = relaxation, calmness
  • Yellow = energy, liveliness
  • Grey = boredom, sadness
  • Blue = order, peace
  • Brown = earthy, structured
  • White = pure, innocent

In that particular study, researchers found that a yellow – green hue which was on the pastel side of the scale was most conducive to learning for that particular age group. However, it was only beneficial if it was used as an accent colour, i.e. on one wall and some furnishings, rather than plastering the whole place in that shade.

When choosing colours for your classroom, it’s important to recognise the differences between children of different ages. Key stage 1 children and reception / nursery children will tend to respond better to lively, bright colours such as orange, red and yellow. Pupils in Key Stage 2 (ages 8 – 11) tend to like more calming colours like blues and greens, and older pupils will respond better to more mature colours such as pastels, whites and neutral shades.

When picking your colours for your classroom, it’s important to understand how different colours work together. Use a colour wheel to find complementary colours, and avoid the use of too many primary colours, as it can look immature and overwhelming. You should also pay attention to the brightness; it’s possible to use shades like sky blue or lemon yellow for a less striking, more adaptable blue or yellow shade. Consider if matt or gloss will be better too; in general matt is more adaptable, but gloss can be easier to clean and keep fresh.

Best practices when buying educational furniture

Whether you’re buying desks, chairs, storage or something else, some advice is standard across all products. Here are some best practice tips for furniture buying which will ensure you are in the driving seat and not disappointed with your overall experience:

  1. Research your suppliers

Check out the magazines you get in the post, look for recommendations on teacher’s forums and use the internet to compare different companies. Cheap is not always best, but you should be seeking a company which offers great value for money alongside good quality products and excellent customer service.

Companies who have not been in business very long are a bit of a gamble. Although they offer warranties with their products, there is a very real risk that the company could fail and disappear before you have a chance to claim, so be wary of fledgling business. Overseas suppliers can be risky too, as they may not be bound by the same trade laws as UK based businesses are, not to mention the potential for long lead times as furniture is shipped across continents.

Make use of review websites, testimonial pages and insider information from other people in the education sector to find good suppliers. Seek out providers who have a solid reputation for good products and exemplary customer service to ensure any unforeseen problems are dealt with in a swift and professional manner.

  1. Place your order in plenty of time

In some cases, you may be able to get your products shipped to you the very next working day. Here at Equip4Work, we do carry a stock of next day delivery products, and may be able to help you out with last minute orders. However, a number of our products have lead times of ten, fifteen, or in some cases up to twenty working days, due to being made to order for our clients.

The busiest time of the year for educational furniture is, without doubt, the summer break. During this time, manufacturers are inundated with orders for products, so you can expect to have longer waiting times if you are ordering during this period. If you know you’re going to need furniture for the new school year, don’t leave it to the last minute to place your order; order early and reserve your place in the queue to avoid being limited to express shipping only products.

  1. Stick to standard colours and models

Most of the educational furniture available on our website is available in five to ten colour choices, although you can request a custom colour if you wish. Custom colours can be great for creating a unique, different classroom environment, but bear in mind that you could face an issue if you need to reorder any of the products later down the line.

Designer colours and styles tend to have even longer lead in times, as they are all manufactured from scratch to your specifications. If you don’t have time to wait, or are worried about colour matching replacement items, stick to the standard models and colours to make your life easier.

  1. Research the manufacturer as well as the retailer

Many businesses will simply be resellers of other manufacturer’s products. Ask yourself whether that manufacturer is a good choice, and whether they are right for your needs:

  • How long have they been in business?
  • Are they educational specialists?
  • What warranty is offered, what does it cover?
  • How do they handle warranty claims?

Here at Equip4Work, we do supply some products from well know educational furniture specialists, such as GoPak, Gratnells, Titan and Sebel, all of which we have hand-picked as being experts in their field. As well as this, we design and manufacture many products of our own, which is how we can offer you such great prices on many of our items.

  1. Bundle your order

Try and order as much as possible from your chosen supplier. The more you order, the bigger the discount they are likely to offer you. Many of our products are available at lower prices per unit if several are ordered at once. To find out what sort of deal we could strike with you, talk to our sales team for a friendly, no pressure quote.

Not only will bundling your order potentially save you money, it will save you hassle too. Having all your furniture arriving on one lorry at one time is far more appealing than having bits and pieces turning up on different days from different suppliers. You will also find it much easier to coordinate colours, and to manage your delivery and installation of your new furniture when it arrives.

  1. Ask all the questions you need to before parting with any money

Think about what you need to know to make this work, and quiz your supplier before you go ahead and place your order. Not only will this ensure you are fully up to speed with what your supplier can and cannot do for you, it will also give you a good sense of their level of experience and quality of customer service.

Ask things like:

  • Will the furniture arrive assembled or flat packed?
  • How long will the delivery take, and will it all be delivered together?
  • Can I choose a delivery slot to suit my schedule?
  • Am I eligible for any discounts based on the size of my order?]

Get the responses to all the questions you might have before you make your decision to ensure you are not disappointed later on.

  1. Understand what the delivery involves

You should also be aware of what the delivery people will actually do for you. Some companies offer tailgate delivery only, which means they will only bring the furniture as far as the tailgate of the truck, meaning you will be responsible for getting it off the truck and into your school. This might not be a problem if you have access to sack trucks and plenty of manpower. It is generally the cheapest option.

You might be able to arrange inside delivery with the couriers, which will usually mean paying a bit more money, but will see your new furniture taken inside the school. Do check if the delivery people are willing to take your furniture into the appropriate room, as some will only bring it to the closest point, which could mean your reception is suddenly filled with new tables and chairs!

If you are having your furniture delivered over the summer holidays, make sure your caretaker or bursar is available to help coordinate things. They will need to open up the school to receive the delivery, and may need extra pairs of hands to move the furniture into position and to put it together if it arrives flat packed.

When you receive your furniture, check it carefully for signs of damage. Make sure you count all the items you have received, and report any problems to your supplier in good time.

Following these best practices will help to ensure you get a good deal every time, and that you are not unpleasantly surprised during the purchase process.

Further information

For more advice on educational furniture and anything else on our website, get in touch with Equip4Work and we’ll be happy to help. Call today on 08444 999 222 or email us at sales@equip4work.co.uk.

John

Head of cool things at Office Furniture
Bit of this, bit of that but love cats.

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Author: John