Would you allow pupils to wear slippers in class?
A primary school in Derbyshire hit the headlines last week after it allowed its pupils to wear slippers in class. Your first reaction might be, “What?! I’ve heard it all now!”, but it’s more commonplace than you might think. A number of other schools around England have a shoeless policy and the practice in Scandinavia is quite normal.
Lots of schools are now trying it, so should you go shoeless too?
For more than a decade, Professor Stephen Heppell from Bournemouth University has studied the topic of a shoeless learning spaces in 25 countries. His research found that there was a “complex mix of significant gains”, including:
- behaviour is significantly calmer whilst children circulate
- bullying is reduced
- circulation noise is reduced substantially
- carpets are much cleaner and more hygienic
- wear and tear on furniture is reduced
- children are much more willing to sit on floors and soft furnishings and are much more likely to read and engage with their iPads, laptops
- cleaner floors and less furniture creates more space for collaboration, presentation, role play etc
- teachers do not end up in conflict about the “right kind” of shoes.
The research suggests that not wearing school shoes leads to better engagement, better learning, better behaviour, less stress and cheaper maintenance.
Shoeless learning might sound like a gimmick, but it does genuinely have a positive impact on learning and behaviour. Schools have reported that children feel more at home, they relax more and feel more comfortable when they don’t have to wear shoes. Therefore, are more willing to engage in learning activities. It makes sense too, especially when we step into the shoes of a pupil and experience school as they see it.
Professor Heppell states,
“The key to attainment is engagement, and if children want to be there and enjoy being there, universally they do better. When they arrive late and leave early and are disengaged, their performance suffers. Kids with shoes on are less engaged than those without shoes.”
“In shoeless schools children also arrive earlier and leave later, which translates into half an hour of extra learning a day on average.” Noise is definitely lessened in a shoeless environment which is interesting, especially as the Centre For Internet Research found, “The most frequently mentioned word in the classroom, according to our research, is quiet.”
The research is also very encouraging from a behaviour point of view. Heppell found; “It seems to be difficult to be a bully with your shoes off.” Take a look at this video to find out more about how going shoe-less works.
Pull Your Socks Up!
If you want to go shoeless, Professor Heppell recommends that a few details need to be considered before implementation:
- going shoeless has to apply to everyone – teachers, headteachers, guests, caretakers
- you will need to give guests notice that you operate a shoes-off policy
- give notice so children are prepared and they don’t wear socks with holes in them
- clean the floors on the weekend before
- you need a place for the shoes so they are not piled on top of each other in a shoe mountain outside class.
A shoe less policy doesn’t’ have to mean no shoes at all. Some schools have shoe-less zones and there are of course health and safety limitations such as workshop areas, toilets and moving between buildings and going outdoors. You might think that these practicalities will make going shoe-less a non-starter, but schools work around these and make it work.
The psychology of the sock and psychology of the slipper are more powerful than we might imagine. It might just be time to introduce a no-shoe policy where you are to give children the best possible chance of doing well in school. From Bangkok to Tromso, smart schools are seeing results because children feel different and introducing a shoeless policy is far from a backward step.
Do you know a school that has a shoe-less policy? Shoe-less learning isn’t for everyone but leading academics have called on teachers to implement the policy nationwide. Shoe-lessness could become the cultural norm. Why not try it out in your school and see?
John Dabell writes for Teacher Toolkit