It Really Must Stop

If you look carefully you can see a little red person. Thats young son, perching on a branch.
If you look carefully you can see a little red person. That's young son, perched on a branch.

The Health and Safety regulations concerning children in this country are going totally overboard. In young son’s previous school, a Church of England state primary, we were already shocked by the number of rules they had, supposedly for the children’s safety. No playing football in breaks, during the heatwave they had to stay inside or sit down under the trees in all breaks, when we had the snow last year the school was closed for a whole week (explanation was that there was ice on the parking lot…) and teachers cannot hug or cuddle a child who’s unhappy or has been hurt.

Then there’s this horrible story about a dinner lady who got sacked for telling parents the truth about their daughter being bullied. And there’s this silly, silly new regulations at a playground: To accompany your child or grandchild or whatever into this playground you have to be vetted as a “playground worker”. If you’re not, you have to stay outside the fence.

And there’s this, where home baked cakes for school fetes have now been forbidden for hygiene reasons.

In yesterday’s Times, Jenni Russell tells another horror story and concludes that we, as parents in the UK, must really do something and protest!

Unfortunately, since I’ve moved my child away from the English school system to an international school, I don’t have much of a say in the matter. It’s my son’s good fortune that I’ve done so, the International school doesn’t appear to harbour these hysterical views on safety and believe that some good old-fashioned  common sense and respect for teachers, children and their parents goes a long way in keeping our beloved little ones safe.

However, it’s not all the government’s fault. We, as parents, must also look at our own views on safety. Where does good common sense end and over-cautiousness begin? Obviously, you can’t let your child play in the road, so that it will learn road safety. But you can let them fiddle with scissors and cut themselves a bit to understand why scissors are not toys? And where you can’t let a child stick its head into the fireplace, maybe you can let it light the candles on the table and burn their fingers a bit?

I remember an incident in my son’s preschool. He fell off the climbing structure and hit his head on one of the milk crates they used in their play. He of course hurt himself and had to have a few stitches at the doctor’s office. But a mum came up to me the next day and asked whether I didn’t think we had to pull the climbing structure or at least get rid of the milk crates, so a similar accident wouldn’t happen to another child. And she reminded me that a boy had fallen off the structure the previous year and broken his leg. She was rather surprised when I didn’t agree! It was the same mother who decided that her son could never again ride in a bus after she read about a tragic accident when a child was killed when a bus collided with a tractor. No number of statistics about children’s safety in cars versus buses could convince her to change her mind!

So now, let’s be sensible. If we let our children play and cycle and climb trees, there’s a good chance that they’ll scrape a knee, bump their heads or break an arm. But when I was young, we all had accidents like that! The only two real accidents, one fatal, I remember from school was a girl who was killed in traffic and another girl who got her finger crushed in a door, indirectly because of bullying. Neither of those episodes could have been prevented by all the crazy measures we take nowadays to protect our children!

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9 tanker om “It Really Must Stop”

  1. Hear, hear! I’m in the same boat as you – I’m fortunate enough to be able to send my children to the private Montessori school at which my husband teaches, and they are very sensible people there. The children use glass cups from a very small age – 18 months – and when one breaks, they help clean it, learning how to do so safely. They sew, they iron, they cook, the run and play on old playground structures, they get injured, and they recover. If they don’t learn how to navigate these small scrapes now, what will they do later, when they’re on their own? The same thing goes with hurt feelings, ostracism, etc. – the teachers may get involved to make sure the children address an issue, but it’s the collective group of children who work out how to rectify a problem.

    At any rate, I’ll keep letting my girls climb trees, walk ’round the block themselves, get their feelings hurt by their friends without my intervention, and learn how to cook by trial and error – it’s the least I can do for them.

  2. I totally agree with both of you – counldn’t have put it better myself; in fact: Health & Safety Regulations are preventing us from living ours lives!!!!!

    I believe that there should be a rule against H&S… for health, and long term, safety reasons!!

  3. I completely agree but I think it’s nothing new. I remember when my children were at primary school, around the time the Christmas Fair had to change its name to the Winter Fair, people were starting to get very silly about what could and couldn’t be allowed in schools and out. Children were no longer allowed to sit on Father Christmas’s lap, as you say teachers weren’t allowed to physically comfort children. I was frowned upon because I let my children go to the corner shop on their own and play out at the front of the house (on the pavement) with other children living on the road. This was ten plus years ago so it’s hardly surprising that the situation is bordering on ridiculous now. Sad though.

  4. I completely agree too. It is completely ridiculous to think that children should ne wrapped up in cotton wool and protected by all these health and safety regulations. It takes the fun out of childhood and causes them to grow up thinking that the world is a dangerous place they need to be protected from. None of these regulations existed when I was at school 25 years ago. If she feel off the climbing frame and hurt yourself, you learnt not to do it again. These days though, teachers can’t even give out plasters incase a child is allegic. All very sad really, and quite unnecessary.

    Love your site by the way!

  5. Thank you for kind replies. So nice with “proof” that somebody actually reads the blog!

    I often wonder what will happen to these children when they grow up and need to go out into the real world without the protective metal-box of mummy’s 4WD? Negotiating bikes, buses and trains must be quite scary if you’ve never tried it?

    Remember watching an episode of the Apprentice where they were testing products for children. And a helmet for WEARING INDOORS while learning to walk was a big hit. I could cry.

  6. May I just throw in that actual Health and Safety people weep over some of this stuff: press gently on most such stories and you’ll find that schools are using H&S as an excuse for anything they don’t want to do. Can’t tell you that insurance costs are ridiculously high, can’t tell you that they’re afraid of being sued, so chuck it at HSE and everybody’s happy.

    I agree entirely that rules are overwrought these days, I’d take the argument that health and safety needs to be examined. But I promise you HSE is not about this kind of thing. I’ve seen incident photographs that would sicken you: I’ll never forget a shot I saw of a man’s hand with a hole the width of a golf ball punched clean through it by a power press. That’s what HSE works at preventing.

    William

  7. I hope you noticed, William, that I actually aim most of my wrath at the parents. When parents demand of schools that they don’t have climbing structures in the playground because the children might fall off them, it’s not the school’s fault and the parents are doing their children a disservice.

    That said – at son’s old school the staff was clearly hiding behind H&S a number of times to avoid extra work or the inevitable noise of boys playing. Plain and simple.

  8. I take your point.

    Do you remember the conker story from a little ago? HSE bans conkers in schools. Not one TV, radio or newspaper that ran that story asked HSE if it were true. That’s crossing into my area, journalism, so I spark off increasingly angrily about it.

    Anyway, I came for the music!

    William

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