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Desk arrangements and to be 16 again!

6 June 2023

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Arranging and re-arranging desks

This week, we are examining the differences in desk arrangements among teachers across various phases and subject departments. Let’s start with primary school classrooms, where students are typically seated in groups. As students progress to Key Stage 2 (KS2), about a third of classrooms adopt a setup with rows or a horseshoe arrangement. On the other hand, the majority of non-practical secondary subjects still have desks arranged in rows.

One intriguing aspect is that desk arrangements represent a rare policy change that has persisted beyond the pandemic. During the pandemic, classrooms were rearranged to minimise student contact, resulting in over 80% of primary school students being seated in rows. Although most primary schools have now returned to the traditional group table setup, the number of students opting for rows remains significantly higher than before the pandemic. For instance, in KS2, 37% of students now sit in rows compared to 28% prior to the pandemic. Similarly, the proportion of students sitting in rows for secondary school subjects is also higher than pre-pandemic levels.

So, why has this change endured? It’s not because teachers’ preferences for seating arrangements have undergone substantial transformations. Before the pandemic, 62% of teachers preferred students sitting in groups, and when we asked last week, that number only decreased slightly to 60%. Furthermore, approximately 30% of teachers do not have control over their classroom arrangement due to physical or policy constraints or because they share the space with other teachers. Instead, we have now identified a significant group of teachers currently teaching in classrooms arranged in rows or a horseshoe who express a preference for an arrangement that allows students to work in groups. It’ll be interesting to see whether the desks are rearranged again over the coming year.

Socialising with colleagues

Does your school leadership ever organise social events after school on Fridays? If so, do you attend? According to our survey, 7 out of 10 respondents expressed their willingness to attend such events, which is fantastic! However, it’s worth noting that one of those seven individuals would only be present reluctantly. What about the remaining three who choose not to attend? They are divided between those who would enjoy the event but have caring commitments and those who are aware they wouldn’t enjoy it and thus opt out. Interestingly, classroom teachers in their 50s appear to be the least enthusiastic about attending these social events, with less than half of them willing to participate. On the other hand, teachers in their 20s are the most eager to join, even surpassing the enthusiasm of the headteacher themselves!

When we consider the subject and phase taught, it becomes apparent that primary school teachers are the most enthusiastic about coming together and socialising with their colleagues. This could be attributed to the smaller size of primary schools, where teachers feel a stronger sense of familiarity with their peers. Among secondary teachers, it seems that arts and design and technology (DT) teachers are the least inclined to engage in socialising activities.

Studying another A level

It is always fascinating to discover the subjects that A-level teachers would choose to study themselves, as it unveils their personal interests beyond the subjects they teach. Of course, our choices are influenced by our own academic backgrounds, so let’s delve into that aspect. The chart below highlights the strong bent towards English and humanities among primary teachers. A mere quarter of primary teachers studied maths A-level, while only 30% studied a science. In contrast, more than half sat A-level English.

However, if given the opportunity, what subjects would teachers choose to study next? Despite their existing affinity for English and humanities, the most popular choice for primary teachers would be another humanity or social science subject! Similarly, 45% of secondary humanities teachers would opt for another humanities subject. It is primarily the maths and science teachers who exhibit a clear preference for studying another science A-level as adults. This clearly demonstrates that the subjects we cherished at the age of 16 continue to intrigue us as adults, fuelling our desire to deepen our knowledge in those areas!

And finally…

The most read tip this week was: What’s it like to be a teacher

And here are the rest for your reference: