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Teachers say shoeless pupils better at learning

By Rebecca Black

A teachers union has said allowing children to take their shoes off in class may enhance their learning.

Avril Hall Callaghan, general secretary of the Ulster Teachers' Union, said researchers from the University of Bournemouth found those who left their shoes outside the classroom were more likely to arrive at school earlier, leave later and read more.

The research was published following the observation of thousands of children from 25 countries over a decade.

Findern Primary School in Derby has adopted the approach to include slippers, and staff have reported that after introducing the rule at the start of term they have noticed a big improvement.

"Findern Primary is the latest school to allow its children to don slippers in class and has done so on the basis of UK university research and best practice in Scandinavia," Ms Hall Callaghan said.

"Similarly, in Scandinavia, where countries routinely top educational league tables, children are encouraged to leave their shoes at the door - ostensibly for the practical reasons of not bringing snow inside - but the practice may also contribute to their positive learning outcomes.

"The merits or otherwise of school uniform involve ongoing debate and certainly the mounting costs of prescriptive uniforms which are demanded by some schools is questionable, especially if uniforms are intended primarily to actually break down barriers between pupils from varying incomes."

Ms Hall Callaghan said over the life of their research, academics collated data from schools in New Zealand and Australia, as well as a school in London. However, schools in Spain, where it is more common to wear shoes indoors, also tested out the theory and found improved learning and pupil behaviour.

"It's hard to argue with findings like this when experts found that by removing shoes, classrooms were quieter, providing a calmer atmosphere where pupils were more willing to engage in learning activities," she said.

"Bullying in schools where the policy had been introduced was also markedly reduced.

"Uniform is always a contentious issue and it's up to individual schools and governors to decide what will work best for their pupils - but this latest finding is certainly food for thought."

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