Four year olds teaching businesses different ways of working

February 13, 2017
How to Manage Different ways of working

Image by Syda Productions / Shutterstock, Inc
At first glance, Findern Primary School looks no different to any other UK primary school. It is made of brick, painted with bright colours, and surrounded by trees and green fields.

But the children inside this school are doing something very different. They are pioneering a new way of learning. And business leaders interested in finding different ways of working would do well to follow their example.

Primary school children of all ages experiment with ‘shoeless learning’

Findern Primary School in Derbyshire was already rated as a ‘Good’ school by Ofsted in 2015. But in their quest for excellence, they decided to run a trial to find out if children learn better in a ‘shoeless’ environment.

What does this mean? Well, it means that children of all ages are allowed to remove their shoes and hop into their slippers once they reach their classroom.

Speaking to the BBC, Headteacher Emma Tichener explains that the scheme is optional and non-compulsory.

“It is about enhancing the pupils’ learning” she says, adding that it is “not a compulsory part” of the school’s uniform policy.

Pupils are more relaxed – but will it improve their performance?

Already, the school has noticed a massive difference in the children’s behaviour.

“The children seem more relaxed and calmer than usual” Mrs Tichener told BBC reporters. “We hope that in time we can measure their progress and see if it has made a difference in their achievements.”

But is it really possible that something as simple as taking your shoes off could improve your environment in a way that encourages better performance? Professor Stephen Heppell seems to think so.

Shoeless environments are cleaner, happier and more collaborative

Professor Heppell is as close to a shoeless environment expert as you’re going to get. He has spent the last 10 years researching the topic, in 25 different countries! You see, shoeless school environments are not a new thing – some schools in countries like Norway and Japan have been doing it for years.

“It works!” says Professor Heppell on his blog. “So many schools are trying it, and they confirm a complex mix of significant gains.”

Some of the benefits reported by schools include:

  • Less bullying. That’s right, a shoeless environment reduces bullying. As one pupil puts it, “it’s just hard to be naughty with your shoes off!”
  • Greater engagement. More children are engaged with their own education, with children more willing to do things like read books.
  • Better concentration. Shoeless environments tend to be quieter, which can help foster concentration.
  • Reduced costs. Carpets are much cleaner. A study by EC Harris in 2013 reports that the cleaning bill in a shoeless environment is more than 27% lower!
  • More collaboration. You don’t need as much furniture in a shoeless environment, meaning there’s more space for collaboration and role play.

But despite all of these benefits, there are still many who criticise the practice.

Are shoeless environments failing to prepare children for the ‘real world’ of business?

There are, of course, criticisms over schools with a “no shoes” policy. For example, shoe retailers claim that it “breaches health & safety!”. (Can I smell an ulterior motive here?)

But what about people who say that being too relaxed in the classroom fails to prepare children for ‘real life’? One parent, as reported by The Telegraph, says that school sets you up for the world of work, and that uniform is a big part of maintaining standards. He declared Findern Primary School’s new shoeless experiment as “a load of new age nonsense”.

I can understand this point of view, but it’s hard to accept. This initiative might still be fairly new for UK schools like Findern, but schools in places like Norway have been doing it for years. And Norway is the most productive country in the world!

Business leaders should follow the example of these schools

Maybe there’s a different way we can look at this. Instead of saying that children will be entering the ‘real world’ unprepared, maybe it’s time we re-think how the real world should work.

How many of the following benefits do you think would also benefit your workforce?

  • Less bullying.
  • Greater engagement.
  • Better concentration.
  • Reduced costs.
  • More collaboration

All of them. All of these benefits would help your workforce – and if it’s being achieved at school, who’s to say it can’t be achieved at work?

Maybe we should reflect on the rules and regulations we impose on our employees. Maybe we should consider relaxing a little, and giving our employees more opportunity to work in a way that suits their style. Maybe we should be following the example of these wonderful four year olds at Findern Primary School in Derby.

Would you consider making shoes optional in your office?

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