20 top tips for buying furniture for schools, colleges and universities

If you are buying school furniture (or furniture for 6th form, colleges or universities) then this blog is for you… 20 top tips on what you should be looking for.

In our blogs, we talk a lot about what to look out for when buying office furniture; traditionally these tips are usually targeted at traditional industry sectors. Here, we have looked at how to make some smart choices for buying furniture for schools, colleges and universities.

Classroom furniture

When it comes to buying classroom furniture, making the right choice can be the difference between needing to repurchase something year after year and making an investment that can last a child throughout their school years.

Budget is often an overriding factor when making a decision to buy new classroom furniture. Previously, we have said that it’s worth remembering that ‘cheap’ does not always imply good quality, even more so with classroom furniture; which does need to be long-lasting, with comfort as an equally important factor.

Over recent years, the BESA (British Educational Suppliers Association) Furniture Group has successfully campaigned for the introduction of a new British Standard for classroom furniture, which ensures that tables, desks and chairs made for schools and colleges are designed to prevent long-term damage to student’s backs and help them concentrate on learning without suffering discomfort.

School classroom furniture

6 Top Tips for buying Classroom Furniture

1. Is the furniture versatile and adaptable?

Think about how to create a space that can be easily re-configured to suit different teaching styles. Modular furniture is designed to be multifunctional; easy to assemble and adapts easily to create different configurations.

Modular furniture will help rejuvenate a traditional classroom space into an active learning environment. In addition, furniture items come in a variety of bright colours and shapes that inspire students to become more engaged and invested in their learning.

2. Do your research

There are so many manufacturers and suppliers to choose from, so make sure you do some comprehensive research before committing to buy. This can make all the difference when determining whether the furniture will last; check manufacturer’s guarantees on their products and components and double-check the items you select are durable and robust – do not rely on looks alone!

Most manufacturers will supply test sheets of all their products prior to buying – don’t be caught out just because you think it’s the right colour and will look good in the space!

3. Make quality count

Buying good quality school furniture can provide long term health and safety benefits, especially if the manufacturer has invested in design and research. For example, anti-tilt chairs that are ‘unrockable’ prevent pupils for tilting back dangerously in their seats.

Well-designed quality chairs will also help with comfort and good posture and are more likely to encourage children to be attentive and focus on learning.

4. Check the small print

You are contemplating investing a huge chunk of your budget in quality furniture that should be long lasting and durable. Therefore, the last thing you need is an inadequate after-care policy!

Inspect the manufacturer’s warranty for each item you are considering; this will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. Ask your fit-out partners to check exactly what policies are in place for delivery times, installation and dealing with damaged items and returns.

5. Try before you buy

Get some peace of mind before committing to spending the whole school budget. . . Most manufacturers and suppliers offer sample items, especially if you are buying chairs and desks in bulk.

Depending on what you decide to buy, some made-to-order products give you the opportunity to request samples of finishes like material swatches (such as polypropylene samples), table laminate colour swatches and fabric/vinyl swatch cards for seating.

Imagine ordering a large quantity of bespoke furniture items, just to find they don’t fit into your colour scheme!

6. Detail is everything

It sounds obvious, but make sure you order the exact specification of furniture. . . A range of tables might have many options to choose from; 6 different heights, 6 different colour laminates, 3 different contrast colour options etc. Get one of these wrong at the point of ordering and it could prove to be a costly mistake!

A large proportion of educational furniture is made-to-order, especially for tables, seating and storage, so don’t be caught out!

School furniture in reception areas, sixth form common rooms and more

School Reception areas and meeting spaces

Comfort is important when your guests are waiting to be seen. So why not do it with style?

Many schools and colleges combine work zones, print and collation areas and storage to maximise the efficiency of space when designing a reception area and meeting space.

Creating well-planned spaces will throw up lots of ideas and suggestions, which will require careful consideration when contemplating your ‘wish list’ that requires a number of budget conscious solutions.

8 Considerations when buying furniture for School Reception areas

If you have the luxury of a dedicated reception area, this will allow you to establish your school’s personality and culture into your front-of-house setting.

1. Planning

Make sure that your reception area is well-planned to allow for a high volume of foot traffic, with clearly defined walkways and corridors that might lead off to offices and meeting areas.

2. Seating

Ensure that the seating you choose for your visitors is comfortable and flexible. School reception chairs are often modular so that they can be reconfigured to accommodate different events when needed.

3. Tub chairs

Waiting areas are ideal locations for tub chairs, which give a natural flow to your space and fit in with the layout of your building.

4. Beam seating

Beam seating systems are ideal if your space lends itself to more linear seating design. This type of seating is available in a variety of colours and designs including upholstered, wooden and polypropylene, depending on how durable you need them to be.

5. Reception desk

School and college reception areas are usually busy and bustling with a variety of visitors so your reception desk calls for a working design that is robust and durable. Nonetheless, your reception furniture should echo your brand values to set the standards from the first point of entrance.

6. Try before you buy

Visit your local school furniture showroom to help you decide exactly what is available in terms of dimensions, finishes and storage where you will have the convenience to try before you buy.

7. Go bespoke

If budget permits, a bespoke reception desk will give you the freedom to create a specific design that fits with your current environment.

8. Use an expert

Consider employing a fit-out design consultant who already works closely with schools and colleges across the UK, who will be in the best position to help you find good quality, cost effective school furniture solutions.

How to choose the right School Lockers

Every school, college, sixth form and university needs secure storage for students to keep their books and personal belongings safe. Compartment lockers are the usual choice and typically line halls and corridors and come in a variety of styles, colours, sizes and materials.

You have been tasked with sourcing lockers for your school. Once you’ve narrowed down your requirements, we’ve drawn up this simple guide to help you make the right choices.

School lockers

What key features should I be looking at when choosing School Lockers?

1. Height

Height is all-important when thinking about lockers. Standard sizes tend to be 1.8m high. OK for the older secondary school and college age groups, but what about the younger ones?

You can buy specialist primary school lockers that are designed with height in mind, but if you have a mixture of ages to cater for you could choose a tiered locker and assign the lower compartments to the younger kids.

2. Security

Padlocks are probably the best way to make sure their stuff is safe. So choosing lockers with padlock fittings is a good idea as pupils can provide their own padlock, which reduces the risk of lost keys. Combination padlocks mean that they never have to worry about keys at all!

3. Durability

We can imagine how the ravages of time and use will affect your school lockers and will suffer from a lot more wear and tear than those in workplaces or gyms.

Metal lockers are standard, but can suffer from dents and damage and in some cases they might even rust or corrode over time. Other, more durable materials such as tough polyethylene are virtually impossible to dent or damage and unlikely to be broken into by force or be vandalized.

4. Hygiene

An interesting one this! Many students stick their belongings or litter on top of their lockers, sometimes even food items. . .
By adding a sloping top to the locker will create a more hygienic environment. It keeps the lockers tidy and reduces cleaning time. A sloping top locker also helps avoid any items getting lost; just another place for students to leave their personal items, that invariably fall down the back and end up being lost!

Most lockers can have a sloping top fitted at the time of manufacture.

5. Ventilation

Imagine the contents of some students’ lockers – unwashed games kits, uneaten packed lunches. . . Choose lockers that have good ventilation to provide a steady flow of air into each of the compartments. Not all lockers have this, so it’s a good one to consider!

6. Style, design, colour

All types of lockers, whether metal or polyethylene will come in a wide range of colours. Plain blue and light grey are probably the most popular, but more and more schools, colleges and universities are choosing brightly coloured school lockers to create a more welcoming and lively atmosphere for students.

Vibrant colours are a great way to brighten up the rows and rows of lockers in a school corridor – why not mix it up and choose different colour for each year group?

Robust, durable, safe and secure school furniture

Essentially, any type of furniture for schools, colleges or universities needs to be robust and durable, safe and secure. IT and cabling should be safe, out of harm’s way but still accessible when required and lockable storage is vital.

Working alongside a specialist fit-out consultant can help you to combine products from various sources, design any bespoke, customised furniture and co-ordinate finishes and services within an affordable price to suite your budget; most offer a free of charge design and installation service.

School furniture & refurbishment

Source One are refurbishment, fit out and furniture experts working with a wide range of schools, colleges, universities and businesses across the UK.

Source One brochure and case studies

Find out more about Source One by downloading our brochure or our case studies

We would love to discuss your school project, big or small, so please call us on 08456 031585 or use our contact form and we will call you.