Teachers told to take a chance on risk

Children with Edinburgh Playing Out go play in the road. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Children with Edinburgh Playing Out go play in the road. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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FOR years schoolchildren have been cocooned from the dangers of everyday life by the safety-first mantra of their teachers.

But in a rejection of overly officious health and safety procedures, the regulatory body for Scotland’s schools and nurseries is urging teachers to embrace risk in play.

The Care Inspectorate has called on schools to “move away” from the long-standing “risk-averse” approach in favour of a new “risk-benefit” strategy.

It said that being too cautious about what children can and cannot do can “unnecessarily restrict” their experiences, and it has advised teachers that they should not compile time-consuming written risk assessments for everyday ­activities.

The move has been welcomed by the Play Scotland charity as a “common sense” approach that will allow children and young people to learn about managing risk for themselves.

The Care Inspectorate’s revised position statement on risk and play advocates a new “positive approach” that will deliver the “best outcomes” for children.

Already, the new policy is being rolled out at workshops for teachers, nursery managers and local authority officials across the country.

Citing how the change could be put into practice, Karen Reid, its chief executive, explained: “For example, we encourage services to use risk assessment to support children to enjoy potentially hazardous activities such as woodwork using real tools, exploring nature and playing in the mud and rain.”

Cherie Morgan, play development officer at Play Scotland, said: “The opportunity to face challenges in a supportive environment helps children and young people learn to assess and manage risk for themselves, and this is vitally important for their development.”

It comes as grassroots parents’ organisations in Glasgow and Edinburgh are pressing ahead with plans to have city roads temporarily closed on a regular basis so that children can play safely and “reclaim the sense of community being lost”.

It would mirror similar initiatives in Bristol and London, where residents are able to apply to the council for a temporary play street order (TPS). Under the system, roads can be closed for as often as once a week for a maximum of three hours.

Caroline Phipps-Urch, part of the recently formed Edinburgh Playing Out group, ­explained: “Today the opportunity for children to play without restrictions are limited. Increases in traffic, parental concerns and the growing temptations of iPads and consoles mean children don’t experience the free play outside that was normal for previous generations.”

The group will be holding a public meeting at City Chambers on the Royal Mile on Tuesday evening, at which it hopes to raise awareness and seek ideas of how to waive costs involved in road closures. A similar organisation, Playin’ Oot, has enjoyed a successful pilot session in the Battlefield area of Glasgow. It too has questioned the need to pay nearly £2,000 in order to facilitate road signage and notices in the local press.