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The Broken Classroom

Gareth is a Secondary Teacher from Australia who is working in West London schools through Protocol Education. He thinks the classrooms of today contain a fair few design faults. Here's what he would change...

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I hear a crunching sound (at two minute intervals) at the back of the science classroom. I begin to watch carefully and notice one of the boys shifts on his seat each time I hear it. He shoots me a malicious grin. I don’t respond. There’s no need to arch up. I’m stuck with these teenagers for a whole two hours doing revision for a test they completed earlier that day – It’s one of those glorified babysitter days of supply teaching. 

Finally I registers that it’s not merely the child’s obesity causing the chair to creak but a deliberate attempt on his part to destroy the laboratory stool upon which he is perched. 

But it’s too late. The sound of ten wooden panels cascading to the floor resounds through the classroom – a reflection of the poor workmanship and polyvinyl acetate glue holding the butt joints together. By the time I walk to the back of the room there is no trace of a stool - with the exception of one remaining piece of two-by-four which I too kick under a nearby bench to avoid what I pre-empt to be a violent timber attack.

Why can’t classrooms be sturdier? Classrooms should be built like prisons. There is no place for beautifully designed furniture. You can guarantee things will go missing if they’re not welded, chained or bolted to some other part of the classroom. Plus any removable (or movable) pieces of a classroom provide a potential danger for students.

Below are some of the problem pieces of furniture and classroom objects that need addressing the most:


Main problems: The rubber strip that surrounds many classroom desks must be removed. Too many students have chiselled away at these rubber strips with rulers Shawshank Redemption-style until the strip is cut open and is pulled away revealing the chipboard. Also the collection of used chewing gum displayed under the desks is an issue. Solution: Build desks from a gum-repelling metallic surface with no removable parts.


Main problems: Children are very good at spilling things on the floor. Carpet is absorbent.
Solution: Floor all classrooms with linoleum or tiles.


Main problems: Students and adults alike enjoy swinging on chairs. Office chairs that are usually placed in computer labs move up and down, and swing round and round. Some chairs have plush surfaces which collect stains. Some chairs are made of wood. Solution: Build chairs from a gum-repelling metallic surface, with no removable parts and a weighted set of legs that prevent swinging.

Sharp objects

Main problems: These can be of danger to students young and old causing harm to themselves, others and school property. One student I taught turned up to class with a sharp ended metal shovel he had made in Manual Arts. Another school I taught at had a student slash an interactive whiteboard with a retractable blade knife they found in a teacher’s drawer. Solution: Cupboards built into the wall with a lock to store all sharp objects.

Mobile phones

Main problems: Students use mobile phones in the classroom. One student used their mobile phone to message a student in another classroom to let them know they had a supply. Solution: Install technology that disables any mobile signal in classrooms. Or build classrooms underground at least to the depth of Piccadilly Station where there is no signal. Alternatively embrace mobile technology as a device for research and school communications. The students will end up using it for so much class work they’ll hate their phones.


Main problems: Teachers are actually human beings that have emotions and feelings, which are often hurt. Most of them have hair and wear clothes that attract spit balls. Their skin can be easily punctured by the sharp objects that have not been locked in cupboards. Solution: Replace teachers with droids.

More Secondary Blogs:

For the Love of Science - by Ivan

School Trip Season - by Lynne

Tags: Gareth, Secondary, Classroom, Teach in London, Supply Teacher, Protocol Education, Furniture, Broken Classroom, Droids

Category: Australian Teachers

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