Health and safety culture in schools 'harmful to children', Ofsted chief warns

Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman criticised the school culture of hi-vis jackets and cancelled sports days over fear of risk

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
Sunday 06 August 2017 13:19 BST
Amanda Spielman said that seeing children in hi-vis jackets on school trips made her feel ‘uncomfortable and a little sad’
Amanda Spielman said that seeing children in hi-vis jackets on school trips made her feel ‘uncomfortable and a little sad’ (Getty iStock)

Overcautious health and safety procedures in schools are denying children the chance to develop “resilience and grit”, the chief inspector of schools has warned.

Amanda Spielman said the culture of wrapping children “in cotton wool” was damaging for pupils, as it makes it difficult for them to learn to cope with “normal everyday risk”. She said her message to schools is to make sure they “distinguish between real and imagined risk”.

Ms Spielman said children in hi-vis jackets on school trips looked like “tiny construction workers” – giving out a message to the public that she said makes her feel "uncomfortable and more than a little sad".

What’s more, pressure on teachers to focus on and worry about the potential for every “bump, germ or bruise” limited children’s freedom and distracted from “real issues”.

In her Sunday Telegraph article, the Ofsted chief said she wanted to see an end to a culture that has seen teachers popping balloons because they were too dangerous and cancelling sports days because of dew on the fields.

She said there will be new training to “remind inspectors what safeguarding is really about”, and which will ask them to focus on what schools are doing to identify children potentially at risk of real harm.

Ms Spielman wrote: “My message to schools is this: keeping children safe from harm should always be your overriding concern, but in doing so, make sure you distinguish between real and imagined risk.

”Trying to insulate your pupils from every bump, germ or bruise won't just drive you to distraction, it will short-change those pupils as well – limiting their opportunity to fully take advantage of the freedom of childhood, and to explore the world around them.“

She said she looks forward to seeing more children on school trips after September, adding: ”I just hope fewer of them will be auditioning for Bob the Builder.“

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