Schools should think twice before banning parents from the sports-field

There may have been problems at Lea Valley High School we don't know about - otherwise the attempt to ban parents from school games is ludicrous

Share
Related Topics

Don’t get me wrong. Health and safety legislation is a very good thing. I remember a time when there were far more accidents in school playgrounds than there are now: girls handstanding against walls on unforgiving tarmac and boys kicking balls in confined, crowded spaces. And remember the casualties caused by those appalling tilting roundabouts in largely unsupervised, hard surfaced, public playparks? Broken arms – and worse – were commonplace.

Don’t get me wrong. Health and safety legislation is a very good thing. I remember a time when there were far more accidents in school playgrounds than there are now –girls handstanding against walls on unforgiving tarmac and footballing boys hard kicking balls in confined, crowded spaces. And remember the casualties caused by those appalling tilting roundabouts in largely unsupervised, hard surfaced, public playparks? Broken arms – and worse – were commonplace.

Things are generally better now because many accidents are anticipated and prevented - which is not, of course, to say, that children shouldn’t be encouraged to a certain amount of risk.

The problem with ‘Elf ‘n Safety’ is not the law. It's the ignorant and obsessive way the legislation is seized upon by people who seem to see it as a welcome opportunity to act, at best, like puritanical killjoys and at worst like control freaks. I see it in schools I visit all the time. Over-reactive policies (such as the security rules at the East London school I went to recently) can just be conveniently – and inaccurately - laid at the feet either of health and safety or child protection or, for good measure, both. 

Take Lea Valley High School in Enfield, North London. Almost unbelievably it was reported last week that the school wrote to parents at the beginning of this term telling them they can no longer attend sports events held at the school. The reason? ‘Child protection rules.’

Things are generally better now because many accidents are anticipated and prevented

Now this large school (1280 pupils) has been a designated  specialist sports college since 2002. It does a good job and has links with various top football, rugby and hockey clubs including Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United. "As a Sports College, we believe that PE and sport offer a unique pathway to enhance leadership opportunities, raise self esteem and develop community cohesion," declares principal Janet Cullen in rhetorical mode on the school’s website.

If their children are involved in something from taking a role in the school play, playing in a band, or being part of a sports team, the vast majority of parents will turn out in support. And sport, perhaps more than any other activity, thrives on spectator enthusiasm. We saw it again and again in the recent Olympics and Paralympics as competitors produced that last ‘impossible’ adrenaline-fuelled push egged on by their screaming supporters.

Sport, perhaps more than any other activity, thrives on spectator enthusiasm

To deny children and young people this – and to prevent their parents from actively encouraging them - is outrageous and likely to impede the students’ development as players and athletes. Sport needs a crowd.

Over 250 schools in England are designated sports colleges. And almost every school in the UK is teaching sport and, even if it’s only occasional, trying to arrange fixtures with other schools. And what about all those sports days in the summer which even the youngest children take part in?  I have never heard of another school banning parents from attending sports events and matches, many of which are traditionally held out of school time when the parents will be there anyway because they have had to escort or transport their children to the school.

Janet Cullen defended the decision at Lea Valley by declaring that the safety of the young people in the school’s charge is paramount. "Unfortunately we do not have the capacity to supervise groups of parents and friends who wish to spectate" she added, rather mysteriously.

Surely most of the parents in this school know each other and each other’s children?  In most communities (though not all, as the tragedy in Machynlleth must remind us) that is sufficient protection. It’s very hard to believe that there is any need to supervise sports spectators in a North London secondary school.

Or perhaps there is something going on here we’ve not been told about. If some parents have made a nuisance of themselves then the appropriate thing would be to deal with the specific problem rather than issue a blanket prohibition.

As it is, how long will it be before these children stop wanting to participate in spectator-free sports events and the whole sporting ethos of this apparently excellent school begins to spiral down?

Child protection and health and safety legislation exist to eliminate some of the preventable horrors of the past. They should never be used as excuses to scupper childhood, learning and opportunity.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone