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Dirt can be good for you! – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 1st June 2016

June 1, 2016
Ballard School Duke of Edinburgh Trek

Dirt can be good for you!

I can remember as a young boarder at a Prep School in the Scottish countryside regularly coming into the ‘boot room’ in the Main House and being ticked off by Matron for the state of my muddy knees and ‘play clothes’. I always sensed an underlying attitude of good humour and tolerance, however, and I can’t ever remember being punished for my muddy adventures. In fact, we were encouraged to spend time ‘in the woods’ in the school grounds building dens, climbing trees and playing active games. Here at Ballard School we have 32 acres  of woodland, playing fields and school buildings – another wonderful setting to explore!

I can also remember the whole school being marshaled on a newly cleared piece of ground that was being prepared as a cricket field and asked to pick up any stones left lying on the surface. I am sure today that there would have been cries of ‘child labour’ and ‘my rights’ but back then in the 1960s I only remember the fun had from collecting odds and ends including one of my earliest prize possessions – a very tarnished George III shilling dated 1817.

Ballard School Blog 1817 George 3 shilling

Our Headmaster’s find from the soon to be cricket pitch – 1960s

I read in a recent Independent newspaper report that, in her new book Healthy Food, Healthy Gut, Happy Child, Dr Maya Shetreat-Klein advocates contact with the microbes present in soil, saying dirt could prevent early-onset health issues. “Parents today are keeping their children away from the things that are critical to their health,” suggests Dr Shetreat-Klein. “We are sanitising their lives with cleaning products, pesticides and antibiotics.”

This past weekend some of our pupils have been slogging through the Welsh countryside on a silver trek for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme. I am sure they will come home with smelly clothes, tired feet and a healthy appetite. They may even have ingested the odd microbe or two but, no doubt, will be the better for it.

I have to admit to being a little cross with our Ballard pupils who come off the fields after the lunch break with mud on their trousers or their shoes. My thoughts, of course, are with Mum or Dad at home who will likely have to wash the offending article of clothing (or perhaps in the most modern of households the children play their part in the cleaning!). I hope, however, that underlying my stern exterior lies the Prep School boy who rather enjoyed the great outdoors and the dirt and grime which went with it!

With a grandson about to attend a forest school nursery I can see life moving full circle.

Alastair Reid (Headmuddy-master)

Ballard School is a non-selective, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. 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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