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Health and safety heaven? – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 30th March 2016

March 30, 2016

Health and safety heaven?

The Sunday Times has recently run an article about undergraduates unwilling to deal with risk – and links this to their home and school environments. The article mentions Jenny Brown, head of St Albans High School for Girls, who says the ‘safe-space movement’ in universities – the rise of extreme politics and intolerance of free speech – comes with a generation of undergraduates “brought up in health and safety heaven”, where they “didn’t play unsupervised, they didn’t play outside … they didn’t climb trees, grub up or get back for supper with torn jeans and wet wellies.” She adds that those claiming the right not be challenged by difficult perspectives “are victims of a mad health and safety culture that has made them unable to deal with anything difficult”.

pre prep woodlands crop low res

Our woodland adventure – where have the marshmallows gone?!


I don’t feel qualified to comment on undergraduate life in the 21st century, but I do sense significant wisdom in what this head teacher has stated from my experience in schools. At Ballard we do encourage the climbing of trees, the running around in the grounds, the adventures of camping and trekking and the playing of old-fashioned games of ‘tag’, conkers, the making of dens and the kicking around of a football with friends ‘just for fun’. One of the prospective parents I met before I had even started my first term at Ballard told me how they had just popped into Lymington Hospital to have one of their children checked over after a fall. One of the nurses enquired about their school choice (they were moving to the New Forest) and when they said they intended to visit Ballard, the nurse said (in an approving way), ‘Oh, that’s the school which lets them fall out of trees’!

2016.3.29 Ballard Holiday work (6)

One of our outside activity areas in our grounds

Clearly we need to take sensible care of our pupils (and staff) and we need to learn from good practice elsewhere. We also need to embrace a bit of mud and some scrapped knees. Moreover, it’s vital that our young people learn from ‘triumph and disaster’ equally (Rudyard Kipling’s imposters) for it’s in so doing that they hone their characters and better prepare themselves for life in general. Recently I had occasion to speak with two sets of parents whose children sat for our scholarships and had been unsuccessful. One parent acknowledged that whilst their child was naturally disappointed, he was now more determined than ever to do better the next time there was an opportunity. The other parent seemed to feel that the school had let their child down because the failure to receive an award meant their self-esteem had taken an avoidable knock.  In my view there’s no such thing as ‘health and safety heaven’ and nor should we try to create one.

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

Do visit our scholarships and bursaries page on our website for more information.


Image attributed: By Rudyard Kipling – Own work, Public Domain,

Ballard School is private non-selective school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE pupils. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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