Tuesday 15 January 2013

children and THEIR working environment

An early years setting in York, UK
The preschool setting is not just a working environment for the teachers but for the children as well, in Sweden there are laws about the working environment for adults so that it is not filled with risks for repetitive damage, that everything can be carried out with minimal risk for accidents and injuries and also to minimise wear and tear on the body. After all in a preschool there is a lot of bending down and lifting. There is also the law that we as teachers (and all workers) should have a break during the day and not work longer than a certain number of hours a day. As a tall preschool teachers I have a back that feels the bending over bit - and knees that seldom go under a table...

But what about the children? Is there a law protecting their rights to a good work/play environment? Are the chairs and tables at their height or adult height? If they are at their height can the children sit at the chairs with their feet on the floor - or do they still dangle despite being "child" height. Ergonomics reveals that dangling legs is actually stressing the back - it is why "tripp trapp" chairs at adult sized tables could in fact be ergonmically kinder on children's bodies...

What about children's needs to move - are rooms and outdoor areas designed so that children can move enough during the day/week? Is enough time allotted for this every day/week? Gross motor skill development is an important part of learning to write - muscles in arms and hands need to be exercised and strengthened so that they are ready to hold a pen. The whole body needs to feel satisfied with play and movement to be able to sit and focus... all children have different needs some need more opportunities for gross motor play than others - is the working/playing environment adapted to meet these needs?

Are preschools being designed with the children's bodies and needs in mind - or is there some other logic behind how preschool settings are arranged, the choice of furniture, the arrangement of rooms etc.?

Is it time for the children to have a law written, too, for their working environment - their rights to an environment that minimises injuries and accidents, rights to breaks, rights to free play and gross motor skill play and rest - as well as everything else on the curriculum? Should children have the right to a maximum number of hours they should spend in a preschool setting? And how many hours do you think that should be...?

translated summary from Swedish a text about working at the preschool

Both children and adults suffer when the working environment is not suitable at a preschool.
In Stockholm there is an increase in the number of preschool places that are needed and not enough new preschools are being created which means many preschools are having to adapt their setting to receive more children than the building is designed for. The demand has also meant that many preschool settings are found in buildings that are not ideal for children -often ventilation and noise pollution measures are not satisfactory. There is also a need for employers to be more aware of risks for work related injuries and sickness and how to prevent these.
Arbetsmiljöverket (Work Environment Group) has seen an increase in work related injuries and sickness and has also noted that staff are often not getting the support they need to make necessary adjustments - one of the problems being that a head teacher is often responsible for up five preschool which mean the quality of the preschool then suffers.
The sound levels of preschools add to stress and is an environmental problem at settings - research in Umeå showed that the sound level at a preschool was around 70 decibels on average during the day which is known to cause tiredness and create stress reactions - for both adults and children.

Arbetsmiljöverket satsar på arbetsmiljön inom förskolan

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