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Squeeze your vegetables – Headmaster’s Blog – Wednesday 22nd February 2017

February 22, 2017

Squeeze your vegetables!

I was at our weekly Pre-Prep celebration assembly and was pleased to see a number of certificates awarded to children who have displayed our values this past week – the Ballard Bees (including ‘be curious’)! Two additional certificates were presented for healthy eating and whilst one went to a child who ‘eats everything without complaint’ there was another to a supposed ‘fussy eater’ who had started to eat his vegetables and in so doing was also being curious. Apparently he fingers them first, to test their consistency, before popping them into his mouth!

Many of us might be repelled by this behaviour and have concerns about germs from dirty fingers but I was most interested to hear a piece on the radio just today commending just this practice. If it enables reluctant eaters to try new foods, and especially fruit and vegetables, then I’m all for it. Having spent nine years in India where it was perfectly normal to eat one’s food with the right hand, it seems to me that there are some cultures and practices (within reason!) which can easily cross the miles.

A more contentious ‘touch’ was seen on the news this week when the US President embarrassed the President of Japan by trying to force a hand shake which is not within eastern culture. What I came to know as the Indian ‘Namaste’ along with the bow exchanged with those from countries such as South Korea, would have been more suitable – but that’s assuming a degree of education and familiarity with other cultures.

A further news item just today also discussed the phobia we have in schools over staff touching pupils. The Times reports thus: Teachers who avoid physical contact with pupils are subjecting them to a form of abuse, according to the British Psychological Society. It held a conference last week on the use of physical contact in schools and children’s services, and acknowledged that some teachers were worried about being accused of paedophilia but warned that not touching children could hamper their development. It wants schools to change their attitudes towards physical contact with students, and called for schools to explain to parents that touch is an integral part of the teacher-pupil relationship.


I fully accept that through our safeguarding and child protection training we need to be aware of the wrong kind of touch, but I have to say that a touch on the arm to commend someone, a brief hug to comfort a child in distress and, of course, a firm handshake in welcome or departure at the end of the day, can be very necessary, appropriate and to be commended.

So, let’s consider how we might allow children to eat their vegetables and let’s also be prepared to understand cultural norms outside of our own – and even to challenge those which might inhibit good relations rather than nurture them. Go on, squeeze a vegetable today!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

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Ballard School is an independent, 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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