Prep heads hear case for cuddles

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The Independent Online
CHILDREN need cuddles and teachers should not be afraid to give them, prep school headteachers were told yesterday.

Elizabeth Prichard, chairman of the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools, said that there was a danger that the Children Act, designed to prevent physical and sexual abuse of children in boarding schools, would make staff afraid to show affection or touch children.

'Do not allow the recent Children Act to freeze your emotions, for children not only love but require at this young age the comfort of the lap, the assurance of the arm and possibly the need for the warmth of a kiss,' she told the association's annual conference in Edinburgh.

Conscious that prep schools are still trying to throw off an old- fashioned spartan boarding image and cater for increasing numbers of younger children, Mrs Prichard, headmistress of Warwick Preparatory School, said: 'We should no longer perpetuate those old- fashioned principles which froze emotions among many of the children of yesterday.'

Both the association, which represents 526 preparatory schools, and the Independent Schools Information Service yesterday angrily denied claims by John Patten, the Secretary of State for Education, that half of independent schools are failing to consult the national register of those convicted of sexual and other offences when appointing staff.

Mrs Prichard said that IAPS schools used the so-called List 99 regularly to check on the backgrounds of staff. She said that parents trusted staff and expected them to display care and affection towards their children.