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April 20, 2011

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Bulldog banned, conkers chopped, teachers claim

More than half of education staff believe there is a growing trend towards risk aversion in schools, with school trips and traditional playground games falling victim to the ‘play-safe culture’.

Teachers, lecturers and support staff were surveyed by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) about their schools’ attitudes towards risk. Of the 653 education staff who responded to the survey, 57 per cent thought their schools were more risk-averse, with 90 per cent of those expressing concern that activities both in and out of school were being constrained.

More than a quarter (29 per cent) claimed that British bulldog had been banned in their school, while 14 per cent said conkers had been outlawed. Overall, 15 per cent of respondents said fewer playground games and sports activities are now played at their school compared with three years ago.

Some schools, however, have modified such games to counter health and safety concerns – for example, football being played with a soft ball, or touch rugby being allowed instead of traditional rugby.

Schools are also undertaking fewer school trips than was the case three years ago, according to 31 per cent of staff. The main reasons given for the reduction in out-of-school activities were an increase in paperwork and bureaucracy, less funding available, and less time to plan trips.

For one house leader at an independent secondary school in England, red tape is more of a barrier than fear of litigation. The respondent said: “The form-filling to run a school trip and the costs that are passed on to pupils as a result of having to pay for supply cover are more off-putting than what could go wrong.”

The pressure on exam results and less time available to undertake such excursions owing to exams were also factors.

More positively, the majority of staff think school trips and activities are very important, with 92 per cent of individuals surveyed saying they enhance learning and support the curriculum.

Four out five teachers and lecturers said their school has a health and safety policy to protect staff, while 90 per cent have a policy to protect pupils.

Commenting on the survey, ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: “ATL believes that our members should continue to implement sensible, competent risk assessments, with the aim of providing safe, fun-packed and ‘incident-free’ school trips, sports and playground activities. However, there needs to be a balance between safety and silliness.

“Risk in any school trip or activity should be recognised, assessed and managed, rather than avoided. In fact, young people are often less safe when there is an adult saying ‘be careful’ – they then don’t trust their own instincts.”

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13 years ago

At work, we see these activities that have been shelved because of ‘elf’ ‘n’ safety; usually followed with a debate about common sense etc.. I argue the point that the HSE have never made these rules, and if event organisers etc. put thought into planning with RA etc. there is no reason to stop, etc. etc. They say the world has gone mad, where’s common sense etc. These are parents complaining! I just wondered has anyone actually ever made a claim about conkers, or being hit by a football, etc.

13 years ago

I went to school in the 60s and early 70s. At junior school Mr Screech banned running in the playground because a boy fell over and needed stitches (I think that the descison was made because the lads head smashed the rear light of Mr Hortops sportcar). In the early 70s acorn fights (throwing acorns from the schools oak tree) was banned because a boy lost an eye. some bans are downright stupid, some not it’s all down to applying sensible risk assessmemt not H & S laws.

13 years ago

British bulldog was banned at my primary school in the late 80s and early 90s- mostly because it tended to result in fights!