Education Quandary

A parent wants her child to sit on a chair, not cross-legged for assembly. Should she?
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The Independent Online

At this small primary school all the children sit on the floor for assembly, so it will seem very odd if one child gets a chair - unless it is for a known medical condition. Since the reported condition is pins and needles, and many other children also say they get them, it hardly merits special measures.

Point out to the parent that her child can shift her position if she feels her legs going numb - in fact tell your class. There is unlikely to be a school rule that children must sit in one position, and if there is, it is daft and should be ignored. Point out, too, that children hate to be singled out, and that her daughter might be embarrassed to be perched above her classmates on a chair. And explain the logistics that make sitting on the floor the sensible way to hold assemblies, rather than having everyone carting their chairs about. Parents are often blind to the context in which their demands are being made.

Teachers are getting growing numbers of requests from protective parents who can't bear their children to feel discomfort. They complain if their children are made to go out in the drizzle at playtime, if they feel let down at not having been chosen for a team or project, or if they get poor marks for homework.

Sometimes parents refuse to allow children to go on "risky" class trips, and demand special arrangements be made for them to stay behind in school. But this sort of thing does children no favours. Difficulties and disappointments are an important part of life, fundamental to the development of mental muscle.

Readers' advice

The child needs some medical help. Nerves are being trapped when the child sits on the floor but providing a chair will only palliate the problem. Much better to see a cranial osteopath or Alexander Technique teacher, or if the parent cannot afford it, or is unsympathetic to complementary medicine, at least take her daughter to the doctor.
Jane Hurley, Devon

I suspect the child is suffering from having to sit still in one position for some time. I don't think a chair would solve the problem - I have certainly suffered from pins and needles after sitting in a chair. Surely sitting cross-legged is not compulsory? Could the children not sit in any manner they feel comfortable on the floor?

Perhaps teachers should not get hung up on children not fidgeting. It is normal to want to shift position after sitting for a while, and a floor is a hard surface, not conducive to relaxation. I sympathise with the children!
Alison Keys, Lincolnshire

The teacher needs to put this parent in her place. We all get daft requests from parents, who think we have nothing better to do than run around after their children. This term I have been asked to undo the shoes of one pupil whenever the class has to take their shoes off because the ripping sound of the Velcro "makes her feel funny".

I said I was rather busy, and perhaps her mother would like to come and do it herself.
Gemma Ryton, Durham

Next week's quandary

As someone involved in teacher training until I retired, I have been collecting memories of wartime teachers from former evacuees. It seems that in those days teachers were objects of great respect and that secondary schools went through a sort of golden age. Could this really be so, or is this only nostalgia for lost youth and a bygone age?

Send your letters or quandaries to Hilary Wilce, to reach her by next Monday, 25 July, at The Independent, Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020 7005 2143; or send e-mails to Please include details of your postal address. Readers whose letters are printed will receive a Berol Combi Pack containing a cartridge pen, handwriting pen and ink eraser.