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School refusers, sign language and trips to the loo

Another miserable school run?

If your child refused to leave the house this morning, you are not alone.

Around 140,000 students in the UK spend less time at school than out of it. As Matt Buttery points out, the reasons are complex – School refusal: why is it on the rise and what can parents do?

But the issue isn’t limited to kids on this side of the pond.

Across Europe and the USA, up to 15% of young people are classified as school refusers. That means they spend less than four days out of five in the classroom despite consistent parental and school efforts to support and encourage them to attend. These absences are not due to delinquency but anxiety, depression, sleep disorders accompanied by a cluster of distressing physiological responses including nausea, headaches panic attacks. The long-term effects are clear – from poor academic performance to social isolation and in extreme cases, suicidal ideation – School Refusal in Youth: A Systematic Review of Ecological Factors

Lighting is obviously one small factor in how they feel about school in general but it does make a big difference to how they feel about the place. One thing that seems to make a difference is something called ‘environmental difficulty’ (being able to find your way around the building comfortably), and security.

This new study with over 400 secondary school children found that subjective evaluation of their learning environment accounted for up to 21% of the variation in academic achievement, even after other variables including socioeconomic status and gender were taken into account.The relationship between student’s perceptions of their school environment and academic achievement

Another study over over 3,000 primary school children in the UK found that differences in levels of stimulation, individualization and naturalness within classrooms, explained 16% of the variance in student learning progress throughout a year – Clever classrooms: summary report of the HEAD project

Perhaps unsurprisingly, feeling better about the school environment improved teacher comfort, productivity and job satisfaction too.     

This paper tested simple, affordable retrofit solutions and found significant improvements –   workstations to make the most of natural daylight, optmising paint finishes and colours for luminosity without glare and adding sliding wooden screens using standard commercially-available components supported more flexible use of the space – The Effects of the Physical Environment Design on Teachers’ Workplace Comfort: A Critical Review

Better lighting can even help with long hours at the computer doing their homework too  Prevalence of computer vision syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Light for the loo

One in three of us will get up for the bathroom at least once tonight.

Switching on the hall and bathroom light wakes us up and disturbs others too. 

So what can you do?

Aim for:

  • lowest-possible light levels – your eyes will be used to the dark
  • the softest, warmest glow you can see by
  • targeted where you need it – by your feet!

Three options for plug-in amber night lights: 

  • Leave on – simplest, cheapest
  • Motion sensing – can be startling or scarey
  • Light-sensing – can be a good compromise


Electricity bill?

No more than leaving your computer and TV on standby all night – and a lot more useful!

Links to these products are on this shopping list – they’re just the ones I found on the internet here in the UK.  I have no affiliation with these companies: there are literally thousands of others out there – I would love to know your recommendations – please reply with the details and why you think they’re great and I’ll create a page to share. 


Eyes feeling the strain?

After your first week back, your eyes may be feeling the strain. 

Two in three adults worldwide suffer from Computer Vision Syndrome: itchy, watery or red eyes, blurry or double vision, headaches, neck and back ache…

It causes long-term harm to your eyes and upper body, cuts your productivity and job satisfaction and increases your risk of accidents and mistakes.

For some, it’s an irritation. Others have to stop work.

So how can lighting help? The effects of reflected glare and visual field lighting on computer vision syndrome

1/ Reduce glare 

  • add a glare-free screen cover and check the angle of your monitor 
  • position your desk at right angles to windows
  • add sheer blinds or a fabric screen for bright days or low sun
  • add diffusing shades to overhead lights

2/ Improve balance

  • Add layers of ambient lights to balance the brightness of your screen
  • Add points of interest at different distances in the room to create interest and variety

3/ Improve brightness

  • Choose a dimmable task light so you can adjust the brightness to suit (you may be surprised how much light you need)

4/ Improve your posture

5/ Choose a lightbulb with high colour rendering – 90+ if you can

and 20:20:20 – the cheapest and most sustainable solution of all. Every 20 minutes, look away to 20 meters for 20 seconds – Does the 20-20-20 rule prevent eye strain?


Sign Language Day

According to the World Health Organisation, around 5% of of us worldwide live with disabling hearing loss.  In the UK, hearing loss is the second most common disability, affecting over one in five people. According to Hear4U, that’s more than diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer put together – Hearing Loss Statistics

As we get older, more and more of us will need to bluff our way through the day, relying on lip reading and body language to work out what someone is trying to say. 

We all had a taste of that confusion and frustration thanks to face masks during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities gives sign and spoken languages equal status. That means that not only is it good practice, we have a legal duty to create spaces where people can communicate easily and clearly. 

So what’s that got to do with the lights?

Sounds obvious, buy being able to see facial expressions and gestures is critical, particularly important in a stressful or pressured situation – at school or in a meeting at work for example – Enhanced Facial Diserimination: Effects of Experience With American Sign Language, although feeling left out of a joke because you can’t hear the punchline is pretty demoralising too.

This excellent article in ArchDaily offers sound advice on lighting for deaf and hard of hearing – Architecture for People with Hearing Loss: 6 Design Tips:  

  1. Room layout with lighting distribution so that everyone can see each other’s faces without having to turn around. 

  2. Colours that contrast with skin tones so that faces stand out clearly

  3. Finishes, mirrors and window treatments that help to bounce the light around without bright spots and deep shadows

  4. Light fixtures that deliver brightness without glare

  5. choosing screens and lighting controls that allow you to share a presentation or a video call while being able to see facial expressions clearly.

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