BBC News UK Edition
 You are in: Talking Point  
News Front Page
N Ireland
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Monday, 12 August, 2002, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Are schools right to restrict children's play?
A "caution of culture" has overtaken UK schools, with too many fearing that children's games could result in legal bills, according to two children's charities.

A survey of 500 children up to the age of 15 by the Children's Society and Children's Play Council found that schools are banning childhood games from daisy-chain making to performing handstands for fear children might injure themselves or catch germs.

The charities are calling on every council and school in Britain to carry out a "daisy chain audit" to uncover the extent of bans on children's play.

Experts have suggested that restricting children's play may contribute to the growing levels of childhood obesity.

Should schools be restricting children's play? Or is it wrong to put the school ahead of the child?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

A culture of greed prevails over every aspect of our lives

S.R. Zakria, UK
It's a shame that we live in a world today where a culture of greed prevails over every aspect of our lives. Whist I believe it is a duty of every service provider to evaluate risks there must be a legal limit to any liability for schools so that they can concentrate on their core duties of quality education provision without the fear of legal prosecution at every step.
S.R. Zakria, UK

Children need to express themselves through their play, unsupervised and uninhibited as much as is safely possible. They will have accidents, but usually it's nothing serious, and play is essential for learning social skills.
Andy, UK

Kids have no fear and they need to learn, and some things are only learnt by experience. The next thing is we will be protecting our kids from teenage broken hearts by preventing all social contact.
Mags, UK

This is a ridiculous situation. Not only does it ultimately direct already scarce resources away from our kids' education, but it will breed a generation of kids who think frivolous lawsuits are the norm. If we think these parasitic personal injury lawyers are a problem now, just wait another 20 years.
Dan, UK

Many US schools have had to remove ALL play equipment, benches, etc from their playgrounds after a burglar successfully sued a school he broke in to when he fell over a climbing frame! My daughter has a wonderful, happy, balanced school life, including grazed knees and the odd hole in her cardigan. It's not the school's fault my child has no control over her feet!!!
Jill Cockerham, UK

They deserve to be sued by parents

Charles, UK
Teachers perform their role "in locum parentis"; they assume responsibility for the children's welfare. It is not unreasonable for them to ensure that a child is not hurt due to the lack of suitable supervision during a play activity. It is their responsibility to do so. If they fail through negligence or sheer idleness then they deserve to be sued by the parents. Parents have the right to expect that their children will be looked after properly. The teachers/ supervisors must not be allowed to shirk their responsibilities
Charles, UK

Teachers may have a responsibility to act "in locum parentis" but exactly how far should these responsibilities go? Does Charles honestly believe that children are never involved in accidents or injure themselves when they are in the care of their parents? Perhaps he would be happy for his own children to sue him if they have an accident while in his care since be his definition he would be guilty of neglect or sheer idleness.
Patrick, Scotland

Either the parents sue the school because their organic, undisciplined brat scraped a knee, or because said child gets fat and unhealthy from lack of exercise.

My wife's LEA was sued as a child broke both arms in her PE class jumping off a 2" high box onto a mat. She was supposed to have anticipated that he was not capable of doing a turning jump that his classmates were doing. All the associated costs add up, the inspectors who had to check the equipment, the supply teachers whilst my wife and her head were at barristers' meetings, and in court. This also doesn't take into account the distress it caused to her, and the massive knock it gave her confidence. Would she give up teaching if we could afford it? You bet your life she would!
Andy, UK

It didn't occur to me to sue

Lynne, UK
It is a shame that the assumption is that parents will sue. Obviously some will but my child suffered facial injuries serious enough to scar (very noticeably for six months) in a playground accident and it didn't occur to me to sue. She fell and another child fell onto her, scraping her face along the playground. It was an accident - nobody's fault. Not all parents believe that the school must be at fault. The media assumes litigation will inevitably result, thus encouraging schools to assume the same.
Lynne, UK

Before you sue your kids school because little Billy cracked his head on the floor you should stop to think where the cash will come from should you win. The school won't have funds to settle your frivolous lawsuit; the money will be taken directly from the funds that pay for the education of every child at that school. Leave the suing of schools to parents that have had children blown off cliffs in France or washed away down rivers.
Mat Lindsay, Sheffield, UK

Parents do expect higher standards of care from schools, and need to see that efforts are taken to prevent accidents. However, the blame culture, fuelled by greedy litigation firms will kill all recreation. Now that some firms are stopping people in shopping centres in order to get business, we will end up with more and more of this. The losers? The children...
Bob Price, Wales

This is the fault of the legal system. If a few judges awarded punitive costs against these chancers trying to make a quick buck out of their kids' injuries and their lawyers, the litigation culture would change.
John D, UK

Personal greed has become so fashionable

Pete, UK
It's not the fault of the teachers, schools, councils or even the legal system. It is another example of personal greed that has become so fashionable over the last 20 years. Any excuse, however feeble, will have selfish, greedy individuals seeing another way to make money. The fact that children are suffering as a result does not enter into it. The schools, just as much as any other organisation that appears to be so paranoid today are simply reacting to this pathetic and sorry situation to protect themselves.
Pete, UK

Being a parent I cannot understand why so many of these innocent games are banned by schools. I grew up making daisy chains and playing running games in the playground. Falling over and hurting yourself are all part of growing up. Perhaps the parents should look to their own childhood and refresh their memories as to what being a child is really like instead of possibly stifling the mental growth of the adults of the future.
Lin Woodin, England

If children are not allowed an outlet for their energies at playtimes, trouble is likely to explode from them at other times

Roger, UK
How on earth can children hope to learn from their mistakes - the easiest way - if they are not allowed to do anything? Cuts and bruises, with the occasional more serious accident, are part of growing up. If children are not allowed an outlet for their energies at playtimes, trouble is likely to explode from them at other times. It is high time this compensation culture is stamped out of daily life and people are allowed to live normally.
Roger, UK

If the schools weren't so afraid of the children they teach - and afraid of the parents, too - then they might be prepared to allow children to be children. Not many schools seem to have areas where daisies even grow any more - can't think of many London schools where a daisy chain would hold more than a few seconds before petrol fumes melt it. Children are encouraged to play on games consoles for a very good reason; it keeps them quiet. Much easier to talk when you're not engaged in ritualistic combat with barbarian hordes and lots of hi-tech weaponry.
Tom M, London, UK

I heard on Radio 4 this morning that they have now stopped children doing long jump with a sandpit in some schools. Has our society gone mad? Too many do gooders and too many fools listening to them. Life is competitive - that's what makes leaders in life. What a sad life we now lead when our children cannot even partake of even a basic sports event.
Nick S, UK

In the school where my daughter helps out as a voluntary assistant, she is not allowed to put a plaster on a child's knee if it falls and hurts itself without the child's parent first being contacted for permission to do so. Would it not be possible for all parents to sign a form, consenting to children taking part in what most of us would see as normal play and sports activities, and those who did not want their little darlings to do so, could sign another form saying so, thus placing the responsibility squarely back on the parents. I suspect that most of those who sue do so merely because they see the chance of making a bit of cash, not out of any real concern for their children anyway.

The general feeling amongst my colleagues is that if you take children out on trips and anything happens to them, even if it was their fault, you will be left to twist in the wind with your career finished. It's just too big a risk to take.
John B, U.K.

Twenty years from now all these kids will know is how to sit in front of the TV on an ozone friendly couch

Keith, UK
This country is going nuts. The attraction to emigrate grows daily. Twenty years from now all these kids will know is how to sit in front of the TV on an ozone friendly couch.
Keith, UK

This is a symptom of the age in which we live. People today find it hard to tolerate the idea that as a species we are still as vulnerable as the rest of the animal kingdom to diseases and accidents. Parents in particular seem keen to place blame if any harm befalls their cherubic offspring. But to be fair, the press bombard us with horror stories of a minority of cases, and this scares parents into keeping their children wrapped up in cotton wool. Parents need to be cautious, but at the end of the day, you can't protect your children 100% of the time. We all have to take our chances in life.
Justin, UK

Yet again we see the results of the solicitors no-win no-fee mob. What do people expect?
Peter, UK

I lived in Germany and hated it because it was the exact opposite of the UK in that in the UK, everything is allowed that is not expressed forbidden. In Germany, everything is forbidden that is not expressly allowed. It seems we were just lagging behind.
Bob, UK

I am a gymnastics coach, and we have noticed that children have been suffering from the lack of physical play for many years. Now we get 5 year-olds who come to join the club and don't even know how to run. I do not mean "run correctly", rather have no concept of running because they are not allowed to do so in school, and are not allowed out to play unsupervised.

As to the "blame and litigation culture" that is the norm in the UK now, we were almost prevented from continuing at the school we meet at because the County Council's legal department were not 100% certain that the insurance arranged by our sports governing body covered every obscure circumstance. If this attitude becomes normal there will be no sports clubs because insurance will become so expensive as to become unviable.
Roger E, UK

Why not just cover children in bubble wrap before they go anywhere or do anything?
Rich, UK

To take up Rich's point, why not cover certain contingency-fee scheme solicitors in bubble wrap and tape them up very firmly, and let children play as they always have?
Maurice, England

I was threatened with social services

As a person who has always been involved in dangerous things from motorbikes to parachuting and anything in between I haven't taken the bubble wrap option with my little boy. Unfortunately he recently broke his leg in an accident and after taking him into hospital I was threatened with social services. Branded a child beater and treated awfully. I accept the hospital and social services have a job to do, but is it any wonder parents are over cautious?

Don't blame the schools or the teachers. The buck stops with you the parents. If parents weren't so much the whiners that they have become, then this would not be an issue. If a child falls over and breaks a leg, it's an accident. But for some reason there is no such thing as an accident any more. I sincerely hope that schools stop playtime and school trips completely. Then those parents who sue at the drop of a hat can explain to their kids why they can't go out.
Vish, UK

This is our own fault - we've turned into an overly protective society

Carol, UK
I agree with Rich, in fact, let's guarantee nothing will happen by never letting them leave the house or their bedroom even, but then won't that be a problem - after all they might fall off the bed! This is our own fault - we've turned into an overly protective society. We have to recognise that children need to experience good and bad otherwise they will never understand the difference. Bring back the days when parents took the school's side not the child's when they were reprimanded!
Carol, UK

Is it just me or has the country gone mad? Next you'll be telling me that schools no longer encourage competitive sports.
Gary Roberts, UK

Re: Gary Roberts comments about competitive sports. I've got news for you Gary - they DON'T encourage competitive sports!
Steve Wood, UK

Gary: Unfortunately my mother-in-law is a teacher and she has been advised that any pupil whether they win or lose should be given the same encouragement. What message are we trying to send here?
James Niclair, Auk

It isn't all the fault of the legal system, but rather the modern day litigation culture. It is the threat of litigation that the schools and councils are defending themselves against, since just to settle all the cases would break the bank as much as fighting them all would.
Claire, UK

I suspect more kids have been injured when their parents drive them to and from school

How many children have been seriously injured by playing conkers or died from germs from making daisy chains?! I suspect more kids have been injured when their parents drive them to and from school.

What a sad, sad world we live in when innocent childhood pastimes can result in massive legal action. Rather than banning everything in sight, perhaps we should be considering a serious overhaul of our legal system.
Tim C, UK

Children learn by their mistakes. Preventing those mistakes, no matter how painful, will result in a generation of kids who don't understand danger or risk, and will always look for someone else to blame. The main cause of this is the legislation which allows people to sue others for compensation despite being to blame themselves.
Andy H, England

If our children are stopped from playing outside, who do we have to blame? The answer is ourselves. If parents weren't so quick to sue the school every time Johnny cut his knee, we wouldn't be in this ridiculous situation.
Steven Hodgson, Leeds, UK

See also:

07 Aug 02 | Education
29 Jul 02 | Education
08 Dec 00 | Education
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Talking Point stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | World | UK | England | N Ireland | Scotland | Wales |
Politics | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology |
Health | Education | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |