Teachers call for bigger desks and chairs for 'giant' pupils
18th April 2022

‘I feel like I’ve entered the land of the giants’: Teachers call for bigger desks and chairs in classrooms as pupils’ height has shot up over last 50 years

  • A union says forcing children into small chairs could cause future health issues
  • The NASUWT says classrooms are a ‘land of giants’ compared to 50 years ago 
  • Its conference yesterday was told children’s ‘physical development is put at risk’

Teachers have said they are in the ‘land of the giants’ because pupils are so much taller than they were 50 years ago.

The NASUWT teaching union warned of the risk of future health problems because children are ‘wedged into’ chairs and desks that are too small.

Teacher Fergal McGuckin told the union’s conference in Birmingham yesterday: ‘The size of pupils is increasing.

‘I feel like I’ve just entered the land of the giants when I walk into some of my A-level classes as someone who’s a standard 5ft 8in.’

Fellow delegate Elaine Paling said the average teenage boy in the 1970s was shorter and slighter than today. 

She added: ‘They have grown rather a lot.’

Teachers say forcing children into chairs that are too small for them could cause future health issues (file photo)

She added: ‘Their physical development is put at risk by being wedged into desks that are too small and made to sit on plastic chairs that are much to narrow and short backed and where do they put those feet?

‘Usually in the aisles, a perfect trip hazard.

‘There are many students past and present that come out of school with not just qualifications but likely future health issues.’

She said she suspected schools were not choosing bigger desks and chairs because it would prevent them fitting 30 pupils into a class.

The union members pointed out that many schools were built more than 50 years ago and many are Victorian.

‘Research needs to be done on exactly how much space a growing child needs to be comfortable and safe in order to be able to learn successfully,’ Mrs Paling said.

‘What few rules there are tend to be outmoded.’

The delegates said the problem of space became more ‘focussed’ during the pandemic, when pupils were expected to keep one metre away from each other.

A delegate at the conference in Birmingham said expectations that pupils should keep one metre away from each other during the pandemic was ‘not do-able’ in most schools

They said this was ‘not do-able’ in most schools.

During the conference, the union voted to lobby the government to set maximum limits on class sizes.

A new NASUWT survey of 3,000 teachers found that three-quarters said their class sizes were increasing, with most teachers reporting that this was having a negative impact on pupils’ progress.

A number of studies have suggested people are getting larger with time.

Researchers from University College Cork (UCC) found the average 14 year-old-boy was 5ft 3in in the 1970s and 5ft 6in in 2007.

Meanwhile the College of Podiatry found the average adult male shoe size was eight in the 1970s, compared with 10 in 2014.

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