OK, I know it’s been written about so many times but really sometimes I think the world has gone mad. We are starting a Woodcraft Folk group in Bristol for 4-6 year olds and the 2 couples who are starting it worked out, on filling in yet another CRB form that we must have getting on for 15 or more police checks with various bodies between us.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am the first person to want to protect children and so much of the legislation now put in place is very necessary, I also know nothing about the stats that might indicate whether this works.
My nieces and nephews are in their 20s and I remember both my sisters being petrified of social workers and doctors, not taking them to the GP when they had sore ‘bits’ for fear that they might be accused of molesting them etc. I also remember my niece singing the Childline number in a goading way as my sister chased her around the kitchen after a particularly naughty deed, they had launched a big campaign and my niece had cottoned onto some of the issues about child protection.
My husband is a playworker and was advised by a parent recently not to give piggy backs at after school club as it might be seen as dodgy. There was much discussion among friends and colleagues and it was generally decided by superiors that as long as this was in full view of other children and adults that it would be fine.
Now this is where I start to think it’s all gone too far. Children need to be touched, hugged, ‘tagged’, occasionally play wrestled and sometimes restrained (for their own safety) by parents, safe adults and other children. Denying them that on the grounds of child protection is just plain hysterical.
It reminded me of an incident once when I took American high school kids on educational tours around Europe (incidentally without being police checked) when teachers from certain parts of the States warned me not to ever touch the children. The teachers were fully aware as they were of the implications for teachers who might even brush past certain children who bore grudes and would escalate the incident and ruin the teacher concerned. Or that overbearing parents would do likewise. All in all it was best to avoid touching children in any way. On the first afternoon of a particularly hair-raising trip a child started walking into a road in front of a car and without hesitation I grabbed him by the shirt, ripping a part of the shirt in the process. I noticed from the corner of my eye that the teachers had not done likewise but their angst-ridden faces had shown an inner turmoil: almost as if their training and professional experience had overridden what must be a natural instinct. Let’s hope this isn’t yet another thing we import from America.
And also on a note of general safety and sensible risk-taking, in case you missed it, Peter Cornall, head of leisure safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has declared that “when children spend time in the great outdoors, getting muddy, getting wet, getting stung by nettles, they learn important lessons – what hurts, what is slippery, what you can trip over from.”
Mild accidents sustained outdoors, Mr Cornall asserts, are much more wholesome than accidents sustained in front of a computer screen. “We need to ask whether it is better for a child to break a wrist falling out of a tree, or to get a repetitive-strain wrist injury at a young age from using a computer or a video games console,” he said.
Maybe the world’s not gone as mad as I’d thought…