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Primary school introduces ‘no shoes’ rule

Torriano School in Kentish Town says idea from Scandinavia has a calming effect in the classroom

07 June, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

A SCHOOL says a new shoe-free policy has had a “calming” effect in class. Torriano School, in Kentish Town, is following a Scandinavian practice by asking pupils and teachers to leave their shoes at the door.

Headteacher Helen Bruckdorfer told the New Journal: “We didn’t do it because the behaviour is challenging. It’s positive. It takes away the hierarchy because all of us, teachers and children, have to take our shoes off. It just changes the tone and the feeling. It’s about home and school being a safe place. It’s a place to express themselves and learn well.”

The policy has been introduced in nursery, reception and year 4 classes and, if supported by children, parents and staff, could be extended to the entire school in September. Staff visited schools in Finland, Iceland and Sweden in April in search of new ideas, as part of the Camden Learning Erasmus project.

Ms Bruckdorfer said: “In all three Scandinavian countries it is practice that children do not wear shoes in school. What resonated is this connection between home and school, which is very different to the way we organise school, and the need for children to feel comfortable and relaxed within the school setting when they come into the building. When you get home you come in and take your shoes off because you just sort of release that energy. You are able to think more clearly.”

Children are encouraged to bring in slippers. The school in Torriano Avenue has spare socks if they need them. Visitors to the school will be asked to remove their shoes. “It has already had an impact as the children have had a calming response,” she said. “It’s a respect for the activity we partake in and it makes everything far more gentle. We talk about gentle hands and gentle feet and this goes with that. The children really like it. It just changes the atmosphere within the learning space.”

What would they do if the fire alarm went off? “There’s always some sort of adult that will ask that question but it is just the same – they just leave the building,” Ms Bruckdorfer said. “It’s one of those things in England where we think we can’t do this sort of thing. We are not very solution based, instead we put up barriers.”

She added: “This is a child-centred practice. If you think about it, children spend a lot of time in bare feet. If we all take off our shoes, the world might be a nicer place.”

The model is backed by research carried out by Professor Stephen Heppell at Bournemouth University which found a shoeless environment encourages a calm atmosphere. It involved the study of 25 schools in different countries over 10 years.

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