Goggles are not just for science lessons, some teachers found
Nearly half of teachers believe the health and safety culture in schools is damaging children's learning and development, a survey suggests.
When questioned by Teachers TV, teachers complained about a five-page briefing on using glue sticks and being told to wear goggles to put up posters.
BBC News website readers have been writing in to tell us about their experiences of health and safety in schools.
I am not a teacher but I am a parent. I feel health and safety has gone too far in schools, children should realise that life involves taking risks sometimes. Recently, my daughter attended a school trip to a local Tudor hall to bake biscuits in the period kitchen the way the Tudors would have done. When the baking was over none of the children were allowed to eat their creations because they contained nutmeg. What a disappointing end to an otherwise fun and educational day.
Steve, Stockport, UK
As a health and safety professional working for a local authority (including education) I would love to know who produced the five page briefing and decided that goggles were needed for putting up posters. No professional advisor would produce such nonsense. Yes we have to ensure the safety of pupils in school but the protection is from significant risk. Ensuring that pupils don't die on school trips, ensuring we don't expose them to harmful substances e.g. Asbestos or cancer causing sun exposure, ensuring the people who work with them are not a threat to their safety - these are the issues which have to be dealt with - not will they get a paper cut or fall over on wet grass. "Health and Safety" gets the blame for a lot of bureaucratic nonsense - most of the time the rules are invented by head teachers who have a tiny bit of health and safety knowledge and want to protect themselves from litigation.
Irene Paterson, Newtown St Boswells, Scotland
I am not a teacher but a parent wishing to comment on how a skewed focus on health and safety may create greater risks of accidents and the like. Our children are not allowed to wear traditional sandshoes for gym lessons because of the risk of tendon damage caused by coming to an abrupt halt owing to the grippy soles. Result from barefoot activities? One son skidded into the child in front and suffered a broken toe and one daughter suffering from verrucas. Also children who need to wear spectacles for normal activities are not permitted to wear them for sports lessons. Try hitting or catching a ball which you are unable to see! The dangers are obvious. I also find this particular rule quite discriminatory as our daughter feels she has been singled out and is quite distressed by it. The head teacher of our school blames local authority guidelines, skilfully sidestepping taking responsibility for this.
Fiona Lowery, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear
As a Parent and School Governor I am angered by these comments. I am chair of our H&S Committee and I really do have a hard time getting the whole matter of H&S taken seriously. By chance the worst our school has to worry about is a litigation that I hope could not have reasonably been prevented. That said it raises issues that I am still struggling to get dealt with. We are talking about an impressionable and vulnerable group here. It is too easy to dismiss H&S and on the other hand to become over protective. There are deaths in our schools which can easily be prevented. Beyond school some of these children will be working in hazardous environments, they need to be taught sensible behaviour not taught that H&S is a laughable matter. I am of an age not to know the culture of risk that resulted in workers being maimed and killed carelessly. I do not want our country to return to that culture. I believe that hazard awareness needs to be taught to those children to equip them for a contributory life in the workplace.
Adrian, Norwich, England
When we test the pH of common household materials, the guidelines I was taught in teacher training say we have to make the children wear goggles to do the experiment with ordinary soap, because it is strongly alkaline. However, when the experiment is over, the guidelines allow the kids to use the same soap, without goggles to wash the 'dangerous chemicals' off their hands.
E Watts, Barnsley, UK
My son, Adam attends a local primary school. He was sent home this year for sharpening his pencil. Apparently it was classed as a potential weapon. What next? A ban on rulers because they are not democratic enough!
Peter Webb, Nottingham
As a Science teacher, I can understand this. Some of my students only started paying attention to my instructions regarding goggles etc after they had used very strong acid and they could feel it burning their skin. It only took one incident before the message hit home to all. As a result of H&S, the acid we normally use is so weak it undermines about safety considerations. What's the point in taking precautions when you have already removed the risk?
Stuart, Basildon, UK
I taught secondary science for 33 years and I agree that much of the real fun has gone from the classroom. In science there were always exciting experiments or demonstrations that could engage the interest of the students. In the current system that is driven by a tedious and fact filled syllabus, there seems little scope for hands on science at all. That coupled with the stringent health and safety regulations make it very hard to do the stuff that is scary or impressive. Ask kids today what they remember about their science lessons and the answer is generally nothing. One of our standard demonstrations years ago involved the ignition of party balloons - one filled with hydrogen, the other with a mix of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. The two balloons spent the whole lesson on the ceiling above the heads of the class. At the end of the session, the teacher would light a candle on the end of a long pole and in dramatic style, set each one off in turn. The hydrogen balloon would make an impressive bang while the other would be an experience that kids never forgot. This was stopped in my school when a technician increased balloon sizes and plaster fell from the classroom wall. No students were ever physically harmed however!
Paul Cotton, Cowes, IOW
I'm a parent. We received a newsletter yesterday banning croc shoes because of health and safety because they were not sufficiently secured to children's feet! Conkers have been banned, tree climbing also (after a very prolonged, surreal debate). And, I swear this is true, kids banned from running down a small slope in the playground because of risk of falling. All a bit brave new world. I'm just waiting for protective plastic suits to protect from stinging nettles, beekeeper hats in case of wasps at lunchtime and knee pads in case of nasty falls during hopscotch. We're bringing up a generation of neurotic, risk-averse, over-pampered wimps who'll be crushed at the first sign of danger in the adult world.
Risk taking mother, Bristol
As a teacher I have to say I completely agree that health and safety rules in schools are very excessive. Many pupils nowadays are denied opportunities to go on field trips because of the great amount of stress and paperwork teachers have to complete to make it happen. Teachers spend far too much of their lives completing paperwork, rather than inspiring and educating as they should be.
Indeed only a couple of weeks ago I asked a colleague if he would supervise an after school detention for me as he was staying late and I had to get away for family reasons. He agreed, but was extremely reluctant. When I asked why he said it was because he didn't want to be left alone with this 13-year-old female pupil in case she made an accusation. It was only when he found out another staff member would be around that he agreed.
I think this is ridiculous and an additional worry teachers should not have to think about in what is a stressful enough job already.
Danielle, Northampton, UK