03 Jun

Standing Desks – Grove House stands up for health!

Headteacher Mick Hayes talks about the new standing desks at Grove house that have attracted so much media attention.

We are always looking for innovative ways to motivate our children, or more specifically to meet their needs. I never would have thought after all the initiatives and creativity we put into this that a piece of furniture would make such a difference.
Who says science is boring and stuffy. The class teacher stated in the media, in not so many words, that this is a proper science experiment in a real context The children in Year 5 have all been measured for their height, weight, blood pressure, waist circumference and fine motor skills and wear an ‘actigraph accelerator’ which monitors physical activity and an ‘actipal activity monitor’ which is a patch to monitor their sitting and standing.
We are aware of this issues of obesity linked to inactivity, unhealthy lifestyles and all this leading to high blood pressure and diabetes and so on. This is a national issue, certainly not unique to Bradford.
At our school with a number of year groups heavily imbalanced in favour of males we have what I call ‘itchy – scratchy’ boys who can’t sit still, have short concentration spans, are active learners – and yes we have a number of girls like that too! It is not obesity that is the issue here – it is primarily the concentration spans of active learners, which is indirectly distractive and affecting other children, appearing as low – level disruption. So you can perhaps understand that when ‘Born in Bradford’ researchers and Loughborough University asked if we would trial these desks, and admittedly with an element of scepticism on my part, we agreed to give them ago.
It was only after the first Year 5 class trial that I began to realise the potential and began to eat my scepticism. Then with the other class after only two weeks the impact pretty much slapped you in the face, even before the teachers and children involved became media superstars. The evidence is to be seen in the extended concentration levels, which in turn impacted on ‘behaviours’ directly related and as evidenced in the class ‘Behaviour Board’ (massively reduced incidents of minor behaviours such as distraction). This in turn helped to improve the work in children’s books and standing up to write has not affected negatively on presentation in books. Indeed, it has had the opposite effect – retained if not improved presentation and then the bonus of better quantity/quality of content.
The children love it – and so does the teacher! The children have the freedom to choose if they sit or stand to work in lessons.
The immediate impact is obvious. Whether this will peter out as the novelty wears off and what the outcomes will be only the data and feedback at the end of all the analysis will tell after the experimental period is done. It is exciting for us as a whole school as well as for those practically involved.
According to the media the concept has been used in Australia, New Zealand and to a certain extent in Texas, USA and then there is little 470 strong Grove House stuck somewhere in the outskirts of Bradford in West Yorkshire , England which has the honour of being the first ever school in Europe to use them.
Once all the media glory, excitement and anticipation is over, once all the data analysis and results have been completed one conundrum remains…do we keep them?
That is a big decision and only time and feedback will tell, but if the impact seen so far is anything of an indicator this old sceptic thinks he might have to invest in standing desks as an alternative in all of Key Stage 2.

Mick Hayes, Headteacher
Grove House Primary School, Bradford