Seating plans can promote wellbeing, improve behaviour and raise attainment for all primary school pupils, writes Louise Pink, customer success manager for SIMS.
Classroom seating plans. On the one hand, they do exactly what they say on the tin – they dictate where pupils sit in a classroom. But there’s a lot more to it than that.
In fact, I would say that a good seating plan is a bit like an engineering design which enables all children to access teaching and learning in a way that best suits their needs.
There’s no right or wrong answer, of course – what works in one school or classroom might not work in another. However, seating plans have a greater influence than we may think by improving outcomes for primary school learners in the following ways:
1. Targeted teaching and support for a positive learning environment
While allowing primary pupils to sit wherever they choose can – and does – work in some instances, there’s a risk you can spend valuable time sorting out seating arrangements, rather than focusing on teaching and learning.
The physical layout of the classroom can help to create a good environment for learning, and in doing so can also support our teachers as well as the children.
Matthew Bradley, headteacher at Newton Farm Primary School, explains. “We need to maximise every opportunity to engage children in purposeful, inspiring learning, without the distraction of choosing where to sit.
“For direct instruction, we might arrange tables in a horseshoe shape, whereas for collaborative activities, grouped tables may work better.
“When teachers reflect on which classroom layout works best on a lesson-by-lesson basis, they can create a seating plan which allows them to offer targeted feedback, support pupils’ understanding and ultimately, improve outcomes for all children.”
2. Promoting emotional wellbeing for students
Considered, well-structured seating arrangements take the guesswork out of everyday classroom life.
When children know where they’ll be sitting it provides a sense of security and helps to reduce anxiety and stress so they can settle down to tasks quickly and without fuss. And for some children, knowing where they are sitting in every lesson, and being near their friends, is key to their emotional wellbeing while they are learning.
“Predictability is important for all children, but particularly those who are neurodivergent, have ADHD or autism, or simply struggle socially and emotionally,” explains Matthew Bradley.
“For these children, having a designated seat, with clear entry and exit points, can be enormously reassuring.”
3. Accessible learning for children with SEND
Some children find themselves continually on the fringes of classroom life, due to their special educational needs or disability. When there is no agreed seating plan, these pupils can feel excluded, or may struggle to access the resources and support they need to participate fully in lessons.
By giving careful thought to the layout of the room, teachers can make sure that children with physical disabilities are able to move freely around the space, and those who need different types of learning support or interventions can access the help they require. Strategies around seating plans help to build an inclusive classroom design for varying needs, supporting both the social and learning requirements of each individual.
As Matthew Bradley highlights, “It’s vital to consider how we are adapting our environments to be fully inclusive. For instance, one of our pupils had a visual impairment and needed to sit right at the front of the classroom. This seating plan worked well for the child’s needs and the other pupils understood why we had this arrangement.”
4. Supporting positive behaviour in schools
Many factors affect behaviour in a classroom including fluctuating friendships, social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs, and external circumstances beyond the school gates. All of these can lead to an increased chance of disruption and conflict between individuals.
It is an important consideration that your classroom environment promotes positive behaviour for teaching and learning.
While consistency is key, we all acknowledge that things can, and do, change in an instant in a classroom environment, as a result of something like an unexpected falling out in a friendship group. So it’s important to be flexible, and make adjustments when required.
Matthew Bradley adds, “Where children sit can really change the dynamic in a classroom, so giving this careful consideration can reduce the likelihood of poor behaviour, and ensure that all pupils feel safe in their learning environment.”
By knowing their pupils well, and having insight into any relevant contextual data, such as attendance data, pastoral care needs and details of SEND provision, teachers can design and implement a seating plan that works for everyone.
As Matthew Bradley explains, “A great seating plan, in itself, is not a silver bullet. However, it can be used to support and enhance optimal conditions for learning.”
Click here to find out more about how SIMS can help your teachers support children in the classroom.