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Headmaster’s Blog – Parenting and trees

September 17, 2012

I had a conversation today with a parent whose son had his arm in a sling. Apparently he had fallen out of one of our trees during break time and had bruised his shoulder. Mum was fine about the incident and agreed with me that everyone should have the opportunity to climb a tree even if there is the occasional fall. This reminded me of the comment made by a nurse at Lymington Hospital to a prospective parent in my first year at Ballard: ‘Ballard – that’s the school that lets them fall out of trees!’ The nurse was also happy with ‘controlled risks’ such as these even if it meant she sometimes had to deal with bruises and breaks as a consequence. These comments and conversations have struck a chord with me.

During the holidays I read an article in the ‘Times’ newspaper which referred to some online research carried out by the Children’s Society in 2010 and by ‘Play England’ in 2011. Amongst much else the survey pointed out that 32% of children have never climbed a tree, 17% are forbidden to play tag and 20% of children aged 7-12 are forbidden to play conkers. Clearly it’s important to assess risks and to learn from good practice but it does seem that ‘health and safety’ has gone too far in some areas of our children’s lives. Some children are growing up in a ‘cotton wool environment’ which does not allow them to take considered risks, to make decisions and to learn from mistakes. (The survey also pointed out that 75% of children aged 11-16 had never loaded a washing machine and 64% in the same age range did not know how to iron clothes. It seems that household chores including laying the table, cooking a meal and buying basic household supplies are also alien to many.) It’s undoubtedly a bewildering world for parents with a considerable amount of peer and Press pressure pulling us in various directions.

We hope to touch on a few of these issues as part of the informal evening for parents of Y3-11 children and staff on Thursday, 20th September (6 to 7.30 pm). It’s good to see organisations such as the National Trust launching a scheme to encourage children to do 50 things by the time they reach secondary school age (including playing conkers and climbing a tree!) and I hope that as a school committed to the family we shall learn to explore these ideas together.



One Comment leave one →
  1. Sarah Thomas permalink
    September 19, 2012 10:25 pm

    We are from Africa and our children always climbed trees and so did we when we were children. Yes sometimes there may be a broken arm or a bruised something but thank goodness we had the freedom to do these things . It taught us to be risk takers and it taught us not to be afraid

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