For all the reports which cite the potential risks to children of carrying a heavy backpack, from pulling on neck muscles, to contributing to headaches, shoulder pain and lower back pain; there are plenty more that conclude you simply can’t say with any certainty that UK school children carry too much or that which they carry is too heavy.
So, who do you believe?
Well, whilst official reports whatever their leaning, are one thing, the simple fact is that any of us who’ve come in to contact with school-aged children will have heard them complain about not only the weight of their main school bag, but also the additional sports kits, cooking equipment or musical instruments that they’re also required to carry.
And we know that it’s a concern to parents too. When we spoke to a number of parents across the country, their specific concerns varied but boiled down to a single fact: that with fewer textbooks to carry, their child’s bag would weigh a more acceptable amount.
Adrienne Cohen told us: “Whilst the school does provide lockers for storing some items, they’re not in an accessible location and the students consequently don’t use them as often as they might. Some duplication of items that are needed regularly both at home and in school might help to lessen the load the children are expected to carry, as might greater use of digital resources.”
Mary Whitehouse added: “Each day my son carries a rucksack that contains everything he’ll require for the five periods that day. Twice a week this is supplemented by his sports kit so there’s quite a lot to carry. His school is spread across two sites and whilst these are only on opposite sides of the road, there’s little opportunity to swap necessary textbooks over between lessons, so that means he carries it all around all day.”
Anika Birchall’s 13-year old daughter, meanwhile, is petite and the amount she carries is often at odds with her physical frame: “…the amount she has to carry does concern me. She sensibly wears her rucksack on both shoulders which I believe is a good thing, but with it often weighing somewhere comparable to a hand luggage size case, it nonetheless still feels far too heavy and she has complained about this.
“It’s a pity that she’s not able to leave some of her books at school some of the time, or for the school to find alternatives to the vast number of books she’s required to carry around.”
However, reducing the number of textbooks and photocopied sheets that children are required to carry could make a huge difference and it’s something which, via the use of digital textbooks, is already possible.
Karl Fry, Director of IT, Computing & E-learning at St Edmunds College in Hertfordshire is already convinced of this: “I had become increasingly aware of how much the students were needing to carry around with them, the size and number of bags taken in to College and the effect that this often has on the overall condition of the books that they use. I consequently started to investigate options for e-books and the impact that they might have on the experience here at St Edmund’s.
“Classoos provided the necessary solution to meet our needs in this respect. My remit working across the IT, computing and e-learning function at the College, meanwhile, means I possess a keen interest in innovative ways in which we can improve the teaching and learning experience for all involved, so Classoos also ticked a box in that respect too.”
In an increasingly digital world, it’s incredible that so many schools continue to use heavy textbooks and photocopy huge numbers of worksheets when they’re aware of the damage it could do to their students. Now’s the time to make a change.