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Friday, 8 December, 2000, 06:29 GMT
Conkers hit by legal fears
School children
Schools are worried about the risk of injuries
Schools are banning time-honoured playtime pastimes such as conkers because headteachers are afraid of being sued by parents in the event of an accident.

A survey by Keele University researcher Sarah Thomson shows some schools have banned conkers because they fear the horse chestnuts could be used as "offensive weapons".


It seemed that many of the children's attempts to play were extinguished

Sarah Thomson
Other schools have banned football on the grounds that it is anti-social, while another has banned skipping after some girls fell over.

The lunchbreak is now in danger of becoming a sterile, joyless time as schools over-react to an increasingly litigious society, warned Ms Thomson.

Her findings, set out in the Times Educational Supplement, are based on analysis of the playground pursuits of 1,000 children in Staffordshire, Shropshire and Lancashire.

Pupils want to play outside but are sometimes stopped because schools are confused by the health and safety law in relation to children and worried about lawsuits, the survey concludes.

Supervision

Fear of what inspectors from education watchdog Ofsted might say is another motivating factor in the increasingly tight control over children's play, it found.

Parents club together to buy equipment for some schools just before an inspection so the playground resembled a "well-equipped hamster's cage", said Ms Thomson.

"All the schools I visited saw playtime as a time that could not be left entirely to the children's wishes," said Ms Thompson.

"It seemed that many of the children's attempts to play were extinguished by the same supervising adults who complained that children did not play."

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22 May 99 | UK
The games children play
04 Aug 99 | Education
All work and no play...
12 Jun 00 | Education
School grounds relieve pupil stress
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