Diary of a Primary School Mum: 'Is keeping tadpoles in a jar in the classroom really so cruel?'

Back after half-term, and Claire, who normally can't wait to go to school, is showing great resistance, cowering behind my legs and refusing to go in. Miss Perry offers some bait. "Claire," she says, "over the holidays something incredible happened. The tadpoles have become froglets." My daughter is off in a flash to join her classmates crowded round a tank.

Reception has been studying life-cycles. Miss Perry is to mini-beasts what Lord Robert Winston is to babies. Not only has she grown frogs from spawn, but a few weeks ago she nurtured caterpillars into butterflies. When the cocoons finally hatched, the twins were so excited. "They went pop, pop, pop, one after the other," Claire said, gesticulating like a conductor waving a baton, "and one by one, out came these beautiful painted ladies."

Miss Perry fed them home-made nectar (sugar water), and the next day a thrilling spectacle took place as the black-and-yellow speckled butterflies were released into the wild.

As well as being enriching, this whole exercise was wonderfully educational, so it was with great dismay that I learnt that the RSPCA has just called the practice of keeping animals in schools "cruel". Granted, they're referring more to bigger animals (such as hamsters, which shouldn't be disturbed during the day), but nevertheless, their concern extends to charting the growth of tadpoles in a jar. They say the shrieks and grabbing hands of affectionate but boisterous pupils make the classroom a frightening place .

I'm in favour of good animal-welfare practice, don't get me wrong. When my kids intentionally step on ants I get upset. Thwacking at wasps with a newspaper is a last resort (I'm allergic) safety measure. Life is sacrosanct and should be respected. But not having tadpoles or caterpillars in the classroom is surely a step too far.

I call my best friend who is a primary-school teacher. She's reasonable, she understands how important it is for children to see the natural world first-hand, she'll agree that this latest RSPCA guidance is a tad extreme, won't she?

"I'd be guided by the RSPCA," she says, without hesitation. "I've never had a classroom pet because I don't think it's a good place to keep animals. Children get a lot of enjoyment from growing plants and they can learn all about life-cycles and mini-beasts by going on outings and school trips, observing animals in their natural habitat."

I tell her that Miss Perry arranged a school trip to the local woods, which I helped out on, and that I ended up on all fours, digging through undergrowth in search of mini-beasts. And that the mini-beasts were off sick that day, so all we found were a couple of worms, teased into a margarine tub for "observation". There's a silence. I reassure her that leaves accompanied the worms and that holes were poked in the lid. I'm not certain when I hang up, however, that I'm not about to be shopped to the animal-welfare charity right there and then.

I later ask my husband if he thinks it's so wrong to keep tadpoles in the classroom. "It's animal welfare gone mad," he says, and I pound the air, grateful for vindication. But he goes on to tell me how, as a kid, his favourite experiment was plucking the legs off daddy-long-legs and then slowly squashing their bodies.

I feel faint and dizzy and stick a finger in each ear, then find myself at the computer, searching for the RSPCA cruelty line.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Pre School Practitioner

£6 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, they are loo...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development & Relationship Manager

£45000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Development & Relati...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant - Startup

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Personal Assistant is require...

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her in Latakia
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report