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Richard Brennan has been campaigning for years to make backward sloping chairs illegal. Please see the Children, Posture and Education page for his views on the subject.
In 2005 the National Back Pain Association (now known as BackCare, the UK-based charity for healthier backs) identified backward sloping school chairs as a major cause of back problems in adults. Their report Your Back in the Future: How school furniture is ruining our children's physical health can be downloaded here courtesy of BackCare. It concludes that we should improve posture by providing a height adjustable 5° to 10° forward sloping or rounded seat, and a height adjustable sloping desk for reading and writing.
Unfortunately nearly all the schools in Ireland use backward sloping chairs and flat desks of fixed height, causing untold suffering, yet the Department of Education has been turning a blind eye to the problem since 1998. The current standard is that school chairs may range in slope between -5° (5° backward) and +5° (5° forward). The European Standards Commission were, until very recently, in the process of introducing a new draft standard (Draft document: prEN1729 1 2012, bottom of page 13. Enquiries to CEN) stipulating that the base of all school chairs can slope backwards by as much as 10°. This would have been a disaster for children's backs. Fortunately this decision was overturned at a recent meeting in Copenhagen (10th and 11th July 2013), after contributions from two delegates from Ireland (Simon Dennehy of www.perch.ie and Richard Brennan) and put back to the original limit of -5 degrees. An additional 2° was added to the allowable forward tilt, so the range is now -5° to +7°. While a -5 degrees of backward tilt may be suitable for double-sloped chairs, it is definitely not good when the angle is uniform. This proposed policy reversal is a step in the right direction, but the campaign continues. We have heard recently that the reversal is not guaranteed.
The Centre set up an online petition for Ireland in 2012 and we are delighted that in 2013 the Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique (STAT) has taken up the cause on a larger scale. They now have a campaign page here, which includes the new video feature below, and Facebook and Twitter links.
The STAT petition includes Ireland, the UK and the rest of Europe. Please sign it via the link below.
On Wednesday 4th November 2015 five AT teachers and AT Teacher Trainees, from the Alexander Technique Training College in Moycullen, introduced twenty 4th class primary school pupils from the Claddagh School in Galway City, aged around ten years old, to the use of wedge cushions when seated. The study will examine photographic evidence, children's views and teachers' views on the impact of the use of wedge cushions on seated posture over a 6 month period.
Earlier in the week the children had been asked to write a few sentences about sitting at a desk and whether they found the chair comfortable or uncomfortable. They were also asked to describe what they did to make sitting comfortable. In addition, photographs were taken of the children sitting at their desks working prior to commencing the pilot study.
One hour was spent in the classroom introducing the children to the concept of good posture and poor posture. Prior to the intervention the children were observed by the AT Teachers/Trainees as they completed work seated at their desks and their observations recorded.
The children were then given a 15 minute PowerPoint presentation about how the spine works, how children's posture changes from 5 year olds to teenagers, and how the school chair can contribute to poor posture in teenagers. A model spine was used to show children how rocking on their sitting bones promotes good posture when seated.
The children were then taken in groups of 4 and they were shown how to find their hip joints and their sitting bones and how to rock on the sitting bones to allow the spine to stay long when working at the desk. They were each given a wedge and shown how to correctly position it on the chair. It was also explained to them how the feet placed flat on the floor promotes good posture when using the wedge.
Finally, comments were collected from children about how they felt about the use of the wedges.
It is planned to visit the class again after 8 weeks to review how the wedges are impacting seated posture.
The class teacher will take photographs of children seated in the classroom at intervals over the 8 week period.
Results of the pilot study are summarised in this pdf report.
Interview with Richard Brennan on Children and Posture: How school chairs are ruining childrens' posture, and what can be done to prevent this. Interview length: 25 minutes. For further details and more interviews please see our Audio & Video page.