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Postitive risk-taking: the view of an independent school head of boarding June 22, 2011

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, Magazines.
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We hear and read a lot in the UK about the need for children in school to experience and develop their risk-taking and risk-assessing abilities. There are continuing concerns that the compensation culture and fears over so-called “stranger danger” are, for example, stopping children playing outside, undermining their long-term development.

Headteachers are often at odds with politicians regarding risk-taking, with the Heads and teachers insisting that schools should allow children to flourish instead of constantly judging their development against a target driven educational system.

It is a subject tackled in one of the leading articles in the summer 2011 issue of Prep School magazine, in which Richard Mace, head of boarding at S. Anselm’s Preparatory School in the Peak District reflected on the benefits of education beyond the classroom. Below is an extract from his article: GOING THE EXTRA MILE…

The children of our country need this all-round education more today than ever before and it is one of the greatest failures of past Governments that many schools neglect the extracurricular. Some schools open their doors at 9am and close them at 3pm and this is a crying shame. The teachers’ strikes of the 1970s reduced the expectations on teachers in the state sector to provide extracurricular activities and the administrative pressure on teachers has led to a decline in the number of hours that teachers are prepared to put in beyond the classroom.

The final nail in the coffin has been the strict health and safety constraints that have burdened schools. This would be acceptable if the Government had invested enough in local clubs and activities after school hours but there are still thousands of youngsters whose minds could be actively engaged who instead are lured towards substance abuse, gang culture and crime.

Children need risk and they need to test the boundaries – if these natural instincts are not steered in the right direction and channelled into productive and life-enhancing activities, children will naturally divert their energies into reckless or destructive pursuits. Tranquilising children with Xboxes and TV is no answer either. Thankfully, there is a greater national acknowledgement of the need to educate the whole child and increasingly all schools, both state and private, are starting to invest more in education beyond the school gate thanks to the energy and commitment of teachers and Headteachers who recognise the inherent wisdom in such an educational philosophy. However, it is an uphill battle, the movement is slow and Government cuts threaten to undermine the progress before it has taken root.

The summer issue of Prep School magazine is available now. The magazine is published three times a year, at the start of each school term.

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