Spine expert warns Quinn over school chairs


A LONG-TIME campaigner for a change in school furniture has criticised Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn for refusing to meet him on the issue and has threatened to take court action.

Richard Brennan has been campaigning for a change in school furniture since 1998. He is practitioner and teacher of the Alexander Technique which purports to improve body posture and movement and relieve chronic stiffness, tension and stress.

He said school chairs sloped backwards for stacking purposes but this was causing untold damage to the posture of children because it was an unnatural position. “When children sit on these chairs, they tense many of their muscles in order to maintain an upright posture,” he said. This leads to back and respiratory problems. Children eventually slump to seek support from the chair back and this places the weight behind the tail bone rather than on the correct sitting bones. He estimated that children spent more than 15,000 hours sitting in these chairs.

Mr Brennan said he had sought meetings with several ministers for education in an effort to have the chairs phased out. “I can prove and show the connection between school chairs and spinal injury in five minutes but no one who is in authority, it seems, is interested in meeting me,” he said.

He stressed he was not asking the Government to replace all the chairs, only to phase out the harmful ones as they got broken. “This will not cost the Government one cent.”

He recently contacted Mr Quinn, who said the department had no role in defining standards for school furniture. The standards were set by the National Standard Authority of Ireland and the chairs conformed to the Irish and European standard. The authority said it had not specifically initiated a review of the matter raised, adding that the standards were under review as part of an ongoing process.

A spokesman said the standards were due to be open for public consultation in August. People would be able to give their opinions and make recommendations on the website