Education Quandary: 'At my daughter's pre-school, the staff walk around carrying hot drinks. I am worried about this, but I don't want to make a fuss'

Hilary's advice

A cup of tea poured from a pot, with milk added, will be at a temperature of about 65C, which causes injury within five seconds of being on a child's skin. Even five minutes later, the drink is hot enough to cause harm. You may not want to make a fuss about this cup-carrying, but you would feel terrible if you stayed silent and a child was injured.

This doesn't mean that you have to be confrontational. Go and see the head and explain your worries. Explain, as you did to Education Quandary, that you are particularly worried about what could happen in the playground. Say you understand that staff need their tea and coffee, but ask if something can be done to make things safer. Use a tone of voice that implies that, of course, the head will want to do this; it's just an oversight that it has not been done already. If the answer is that staff will object, go to the staff and ask whether they have considered the danger. Get other parents on your side. If all else fails, go to the governors.

Many nurseries have policies on this, which include only allowing staff to have hot drinks away from play areas, and only permitting drinks at times when the children are sitting down. And, while no one wants a nanny state where every action is regulated, hot drinks are the main cause of child scaldings. Anyone who has seen a child badly burned or scalded would go a million miles to prevent it happening again.

Readers' advice

If your child is happy there, as you say, I think you should be very careful before you say anything at all. Her happiness is crucial. Also, if you intervene every time you become aware of something during their school/pre-school life you run the risk of spending all your time doing it. I can well remember teachers walking around my school playground in the 1960s and 1970s with cups of tea with a saucer. We all survived OK! You cannot eliminate all risk in life. There will be plenty of far more serious issues to worry about in the future.

Ian Bown, Essex

Raise the matter with the head – but first, get some facts. Hot liquid some way below boiling can cause scalds to young skins. What is the minimum temperature at which this occurs? Is it likely that a hot drink will still be above this temperature after being made and carried outside? Would there still be adequate supervision if individual staff were given, say, 10 minutes each to have a drink before going outside and relieving another person to have a tea break?

Ann Duncombe, Clackmannanshire

Where I work, the rules are that hot drinks cannot be carried through the play areas and have to be drunk in the staff kitchen. You work in a nursery because you love children, so why would you want to do anything that could harm them?

Jill Furnell, Surrey

Next Week's Quandary

Am I the only person disgusted at the thought of disgraced bankers and traders becoming teachers? When I was at school in the 1930s, teaching was considered an honourable profession. Since then, teachers have lost all respect and teaching now seems to be a job of last resort.

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at, where they can be searched by topic.

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