No Spin Zone

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
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Do crazes get you in a spin?

If you look inside a teacher’s time capsule ‘man drawer’ then you will find evidence of various confiscated crazes that have gripped and hoodwinked children over the years: Pogs, Tamagotchi, Alien birth pods, Pokemon cards, snap bracelets, Loom bands, Shopkins – they are all there.

These one-time ‘must-haves’ sit uncomfortably next to each other like ex-addicts awaiting the arrival of the latest edition to take their place among all the punctured packets of paracetamol, old erasers, life-saving sweets, half-eaten pencils and exhausted shatter-proof rulers.

In A Spin

Fidget spinners or tri-spinners have been around for over 20 years but somehow they have managed to slip out of the shadows and are now enjoying a new lease of life as celebrity gadgets that everyone wants to get their hands on.

Fidget spinners, in case you haven’t seen them, are small, flat objects, usually with three appendages and a centre button with ball bearings inside. The idea is simple enough – you hold a spinner in one hand, give it a spin and off it goes.

Catherine Hettinger invented the fidget spinner as a way of entertaining her 7 year old daughter. The fast, smooth rotation is thought to decrease stress and help with nervous energy. As Catherine points out,

There’s just a lot of circumstances in modern life when you’re boxed in, you’re cramped in, and we need this kind of thing to de-stress.

The gadgets have since been used for helping people who have certain sensory needs and to help develop fine motor skills in children with autism and other special education needs.

Distraction Gadgets

More and more schools across the UK and around the world are banning fidget toys such as the fidget spinners because they are interfering with teaching and learning. Whilst they might help some children to concentrate, they are causing chaos in some classes and there have been safety concerns expressed too about them causing injuries. No wonder teachers are reaching for their worry beads.

Although they are marketed as tools for ADD, ADHD and autism in order to help children focus and concentrate there is no scientific proof that they do and in many cases they have done quite the opposite.

Schools are often seen as the ultimate party-poopers when it comes to banning a craze which is unfair because a decision is made with the very best intentions. Halting something in its tracks normally comes down to the disruptive influence and distraction factor or the risk of something getting stolen, lost or causing an injury – parents would soon have something to say if they had a phone call at work to say their son or daughter was in A&E because of a flying spinner hitting them in the face.

Schools have the right to ban what they want and should be allowed to make decisions about what meets the needs of their learning community.

Some think that a blanket ban is a step too far and that fidget spinners should be allowed at certain times of the day such as playtimes or just after a SATs test! If a spinner is used in class without permission then confiscate it.

Stop Fidgeting!

There is little doubt that certain resources are therapeutic tools that can help provide stress-relief for some children but only some. Having half the class using spinners as toys makes them victims of a fad and they definitely cause a distraction when children are keen to perform tricks and show-off. How can spinning them on their noses and elbows be beneficial to the learning environment? They can actually promote hyperactive behaviour. Undeniably, fidget spinners entering the mainstream has helped de-stigmatise a gadget that was previously only used by children with additional needs.

Spinners are also noisy and whilst they might provide the user with some support, those children who don’t use them are distracted by the constant spinning.

Spinners are a nuisance and about as welcome as 15 angry wasps in a classroom with no open windows.

Share your experiences of fidget spinners – have they been banned in your school? Do they do more harm than good?

As of 08.05.2017, 18 out of Amazon’s 20 bestselling toys were fidget spinners and millions and millions of spinners have been sold worldwide but the inventor, Catherine Hettinger, couldn’t afford the patent renewal fee and hasn’t made a penny from them.

3 thoughts on “No Spin Zone

  1. I am too experiencing the nightmare of the fidget spinner, ranging from the bog standard £3 plastic ones to the all singing and dancing and even flashing spinners. I have had excuses ranging from ‘but it helps me concentrate’ to ‘but I am autistic/have adhd (even when they are not according to SIMs data!)’ and even ‘Miss it stops me biting my nails’.
    The school I work for introduced a blanket ban last week and I find myself confiscating them on a daily basis in my lessons, with learners begging and pleading to let them keep it, getting aggressive and argumentative and, some even asking me to label theirs to avoid any mix ups when they collect it back.
    I feel this is one of the worst trend because they are aimed to support send learners, not to be a fashion accessory. I’ve recently had a parent write me an angry note protesting that her daughter needs the spinner because of her ADHD, but I have had to remain firm with the ban despite the poor girl nearly being in tears.

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