Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Primary school bans handstands. What next?

Photo Credit

And in a world gone completely mad, one Sydney school made the decision this week to ban handstands, cartwheels and somersaults unless "under the supervision of a trained gymnastics teacher and with correct equipment.''



But wait, that's not all.  Last week it was revealed that a Melbourne Primary School, had placed a ban on balls in the playground before and after school.

I spent my primary school years covered in mechurochrome from scrapes received on our asphalt playground, but that didn't worry me - or my parents - in the slightest.  In fact, we kids at Balgowlah Heights Primary School in the 1970's and 1980's wore our mechurochrome-covered cuts and scrapes with great pride and continued our handstand games of 'hey presto' without missing a beat.

A sprained ankle or a banged up knee seems a small price to pay for the sense of pride and accomplishment you get when you finally master a cartwheel.  

Not to mention the fact that you are moving your body, gaining confidence, building self-esteem, developing resilience, working on balance, strengthening and stretching muscles, developing co-ordination, taking risks and delighting in shared play experiences.

Increasing pressure from the cotton-wool generation of parents is backing schools into a corner and leading them to make decisions that would have seemed ludicrous a generation ago.  At the same time, here we are all wringing our hands and shaking our heads over the rise of childhood obesity in Australia.

Children can get hurt any time, anywhere - as can we.  That's life.  My youngest son broke his risk running into a wall at his school.  Do we ban running?  Walls?

What do you think?  Are schools being smart to protect themselves?  Are parents over-reacting?  How can we, as parents and teachers, protect our children's right to free, unstructured outdoor play?






23 comments:

  1. Why ban? Has there been a record of a child breaking a bone? I think they are just scared of being blamed if an accident happen. They are too scared to even fill up those accident reports.

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    1. I'm not sure what was behind the ban on handstands Jose, but the ball ban happened when a toddler was knocked over by a ball and a parent complained. There must have been an incident or two to spark it off, one would think.

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  2. This is so sad for the next generation. Why do they think children get hurt? Well, is it because we don't allow them to be risk takers and when they do they get hurt because we haven't allowed them to experience the physical activity needed. Crazy is all I can say.

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    1. I couldn't agree more. We are actually damaging our children by trying too hard to keep them safe.

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  3. Fear is the basis for all these decisions. Fear of the child being hurt, but then they learn so much from the experience. Fear of the school being sued, legitimate because parents want to blame someone even when there's no one to blame. Fear the child may be injured emotionally, could happen but only if the adults over-react.

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    1. Fear is a big motivator isn't it. I often wonder if these parents who complain remember what it was like to be a child. Things like this remind me of how crucial it is for schools - for teachers - to share their knowledge with parents about how crucial it is for children to engage in physical play outdoors. We have a responsibility to educate the whole child, and not just concentrate on academics within the classroom. And I don't think short periods of structured sports programs can compensate for free play in a playground with peers.

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  4. Fear is the basis for all these decisions. Fear of the child being hurt, but then they learn so much from the experience. Fear of the school being sued, legitimate because parents want to blame someone even when there's no one to blame. Fear the child may be injured emotionally, could happen but only if the adults over-react.

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  5. I think our children face far worse consequences in leading inactive lives, so sad, I loved the feeling of a handstand when I was little, wish I could do them with such ease now.

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    1. I was trying to do one last night Kirsty - my 8 year old is busy practising head stands and hand stands. I resorted to doing a headstand against the wall instead :) And couldn't agree more about inactive lives.

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  6. I am left pondering how many schools have a trained gymnastic teachers!?

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    1. I know right?! How hard is it to get support for special needs kids, let alone gymnastic teachers.

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  7. I don't understand how people expect to eliminate all risk and I agree that rules like this are fear based. It's not as much about protecting kids as it is about avoiding blame - loss of the opportunity to develop through play is the unfortunate side effect. Parents need to mount an intervention and ensure their kids are able to play freely - at home, the beach, the park, etc and reinforce what chidren innately know - that physical activity is normal.

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    1. So true Kylie. Fear of litigation is a big motivator.

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  8. Wow, Jenny, that is crazy. The bans on playground play is too much. I understand and am all for safety but the limitations on a child's natural way to play creatively outdoors is too much. I saw and posted about this article here in the USA and how they want to ban kickball and wiffleball on playgrounds/ball fields. http://www.brennaphillips.com/no-more-kickball-dodgeball-wiffleball

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  9. Wow, it is sad to hear that the over protective insanity that has taken over the United States is infiltrating Down Under. If children are not allowed to learn the limits of their own bodies when they are young, how will they know their limits as they age? Perhaps the people who impose these rules would rather see all children kept in a large crate until they are deemed not to be a physical threat to themselves. Whenever that is, 16 years old, 21 years old, 30 years old?
    Any person who thinks "children must be restricted from performing extreme maneuvers such as hand stands or catching a ball" is a good idea, needs to be confronted and their insanity questioned.
    Who are the people making these rules and why are they involved with children? How can anyone that out of touch with childhood gain the power to make decisions which impact children? A person who takes balls and handstands away from children is not mentally stable and should not be involved with children.

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  10. It's horrible to take more and more exercise away from children due to safety issues. We know children need to release stress, build muscles, boost self-esteem and just have some fun. Here is how I played decades ago: Back to the Basics: Play Outside: http://kindergartenbasics.blogspot.com/2012/08/back-to-basics-play-outside.html

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  11. OH...I could go on and on about how CRAZY I think this is, and I have a daughter with a bone disease who actually stands a pretty high risk of breaking something without supervision if she decides to do some tumbling ad hoc. Even MY general feeling is...well, if she breaks something, she'll get a cast.

    See this article for more thoughts: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/science/19tierney.html

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  12. Oh, it just gets worse. A local school when we lived in the UK banned parents from taking photographs of their children at school, including the school play (for their 'protection'), but at the same time teachers are not allowed to apply sunscreen to the kids (also for their 'protection'). My kids were whistled by a lifeguard when they took a boogie board in the sea at our local beach in the US (balls are also banned there too incidentally). I can understand some playground games not being allowed for their inherently violent nature (British bulldog ALWAYS ended up with someone being hurt when I was a child), but at the rate schools are going kids won't be allowed outside to play at all!

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  13. Jenny its great that you practice what you preach and try a headstand against the wall :)
    Who doesn't remember the fun doing cartwheels, handstands etc and playing ball games. Giggling and being silly together....being kids

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  14. It does seem nuts. My eldest son us 2 1/2 and has to have an operation on his thumb because he bent it back and trapped the tendons at soft play! What could be safer than soft play? That's just boys for you :-)

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  15. I spent my childhood with blisters on my hands from the monkey bars, and I still encourage my students to get on them and play all day. I have band-aids for their blisters! Kids need the physical exercise, and sometimes they're just going to get hurt. My daughter broke her leg on a slide when she was 18 months old. Her leg just hit too hard at the bottom. Total fluke accident. She still enjoys slides, almost daily. Life is life. I can't stop her from playing since she got hurt once!

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  16. Along with the banning of ball games by Black Rock Primary School in Melbourne (the same school one Shane Keith Warne attended), we are really going too far as a society! We are fast becoming a nanny state. If you are interested in preventing further banning of everyday childhood activities that we all grew up with, please join our cause. We want to go back to the days of letting kids be kids. Physical activity is beneficial for their physiological and social development and to take that away is appalling. Thank you for exposing this issue!

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  17. Instead of banning such activities schools should counter the problems by suggesting alternative to children like soft play equipment, or other playground equipment.

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