GP Taylor: Let our children learn in school of hard knocks

School cricket will never be risk-free, says GP Taylor.School cricket will never be risk-free, says GP Taylor.
School cricket will never be risk-free, says GP Taylor.
I AM always grateful that I grew up in an age when childhood was not as complicated as it is today.

There was no Xbox or 24-hour TV. I played in the street and at the park. From the age of eight, I was feral. Leaving the house in the morning I would venture to the beach, cliffs and castle. It was then back for dinner and then off again until tea.

Often I would return home with cuts and scrapes as evidence of my adventures. It wasn’t ginger beer and sandwiches and was a million miles away from the middle class antics of the Famous Five, but it was fun.

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School was very much the same. There was the cane
which acted as a deterrent and the elbow of many a teacher
as he passed by. We took whatever happened to us as
part of life.

On the first day of introduction to rugby, I was kicked in the face and got two black eyes. The ball wasn’t even near me. In science I even managed to blow up an experiment and burnt my clothes. When I got home I got a telling off from my parents. There was never a question of accusing the teacher of negligence and certainly never accusing them of assault when they sorted you out in the classroom. It was all part of life and it didn’t leave any scars.

How things have changed. Parents seem no longer to support the teachers in disciplining their children. The teacher is always guilty until proved innocent and parent power is out of control. If a child falls over at school, the parents look for a claim. Helped by unscrupulous lawyers, this claim culture now costs schools in excess of £7.2m over a three-year period.

So bad are the effects of parents suing schools that some think that education of our children is under threat. Teachers are now living in fear of having a court case against them even for the most trivial of incidents.

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Recently one child was given a payout of £2,475 when they collided with a post whilst blindfolded. Heaven forbid that the good old-fashioned game of Blind Man’s Buff should become a money-making exercise. When are parents going to realise that sometimes there are things called accidents and they often happen?

Life has its dangers and children should rightly be taught some activities are perilous. However, the law has to be changed so that parents can only claim compensation from schools only in the most serious of cases.

If you allow your child to play cricket, there is a good chance that at some point your precious prince or princess will come into sharp contact with a bat or ball. I know this to be true as I bear the scars. It is not something that should be claimable through the court by an ambulance-chasing lawyer.

In Northamptonshire, a child was paid £20.000 after he was struck on the head by a cricket ball. Cricket is a dangerous 
game at times. If you are worried about your child getting hurt don’t let them play. If you do, please don’t go chasing the school for cash if something goes wrong.

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Obviously, if there has been wilful neglect and a child is seriously hurt, then the court and compensation is the way forward, but a cricket ball? No amount of 20-page risk assessments could stop that happening.

The obsession with parents’ claims, fuelled by greedy
lawyers, is seriously going to harm what can happen in schools. Physical education will be the first thing to go. Leading to more fat kids.

Already, subjects are being dropped from curriculums because of lack of cash. Schools cannot afford the insurance premiums when a child was paid £11,500 after a trampoline accident and another was paid £6,600 when they failed to jump a vaulting horse. For heaven’s sake, accidents happen.

Teachers already have to complete mountains of paperwork for every activity they plan. One teacher recently joked that filling out the paperwork takes her three times longer than some of the activities that she plans.

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I gave a talk about books to a number of schools in a theatre. One of the schools cancelled at the last minute as the journey of 800 yards was deemed to be too dangerous to attempt as the hazards on route could not be properly assessed. Crocodiles of children in high-viz jackets will soon become a common sight. What next? Little Johnny in Kevlar body armour?

The education of our children is being infringed upon by an overwhelming fear of out-of-control litigation.

The society in which we live is becoming obsessed with claiming for everything. It has become a divine right that someone must pay and someone is to blame for every accident that happens. This insidious action has to stop and we all have to realise that accidents sometimes happen and there is no one to blame.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster and can be followed @GPTaylorauthor.