Wearing slippers in the classroom improves grades

Children are wearing slippers in the classroom at Findern primary school in Derbyshire. A report in The Guardian confirms a decade long study by researchers at Bournemouth University found that by following the custom in Scandinavia of allowing pupils to remove their shoes has had a calming effect in the classroom. Shoeless children are finding it easier to engage in lessons.

Staff at Findern are already noticing a change in the pupils’ behaviour. In a report with the BBC, Head teacher, Mrs Tichener, said: “we are noticing that the children seem more relaxed and calmer than usual.” Even some teachers have brought in their own slippers. While not compulsory, the forward thinking primary school are looking for different ways to improve the experience of their students.

The BBC report also refers to West Thornton Primary Academy in Croydon Surrey, where shoeless zones have also resulted in positive behaviour changes. They’ve noted that noise levels have gone down and behaviour is much calmer in the shoeless learning zones.

Professor Stephen Heppell from Bournemouth University is responsible for the ‘Learnometer’ project, which examined the physical conditions of classrooms in 100 schools from 25 countries over a period of 10 years. The study examined the impact on academic results and noticed marked improvement.

Heppell accepts no-one really knows why it works, but argues that shoeless learning spaces do work astonishingly well. Shoeless learning is common in Scandinavia as a result of the weather (snow, slush and ice). Maori schools in New Zealand also work with shoeless learning.

Professor Heppell outlines some of the gains of shoeless learning as:

  • Better behaviour
  • Cleaner carpets
  • Reduced wear and tear on furniture
  • Reduced bullying
  • Reduced noise levels, including circulation noise
  • No conflict over the ‘right’ kind of shoes

Heppell says every culture has their own explanation as to why this works. In China, shoeless learning benefits are associated with reflexology and the direct contact of the foot with the floor. In India, shoes are naturally taken off out of respect, so this level of respect is transferred to the classroom. In England it’s thought to make the environment feel more like home, which has a relaxing effect on the children.

The limitations come with safety in school workshops, and hygiene when visiting the toilet. Heppell reports that The Jesmond Gardens primary school in Hartlepool leave pairs of Crocs outside each cubicle for children to slip on. The only other issue Heppell highlights is that of moving between buildings, but no schools embracing the shoeless system seem to have reported this as a big problem.

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