Sunday, 28 September 2014

Taking safe risks

‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.’ GB Shaw

As a result of the changes in society many children now play in a ‘virtual world’ where they use computers to communicate, play games and explore the world. Consequently they are not involved in as many free play activities. Sue Palmer speaks of ‘Toxic Child Syndrome’ where ‘children are targeted by advertisers from birth ….they lure children from toddlerhood into a sedentary screen based experience.’[1] She argues that being ‘risk averse’ in both society and schools is a problem which is hindering the development of many children. Claiming that fear of litigation is an issue in schools and as a result, ‘the health and safety brigade now stalks the corridor, playground and sports field, attempting to eliminate all risks from children’s lives.’[2]

Whilst I fully understand that pupils need protecting and their safety must at all times be paramount I fear that we have gone too far the other way. It is claimed that childhood allergies such as asthma are on the increase because children are kept in sterile or very clean environments and therefore never build up any immunity(3) We are in danger of becoming a ‘cotton wool generation’

One of the ways in which schools can overcome a bland and risk free experience is to provide opportunities for managed risks or if it’s not too much of an oxymoron – ‘safe risk taking’. Children can be protected into working in an environment which is outside of their comfort zone, which allows them to make decisions as well as look at cause and effect

The reason for writing this blog post is because I had a wonderful day at Darton College in Barnsley on Friday working with GCSE art pupils. They were mature young people who were fully in control of their learning and happy to direct me, as a photographer, to get the shot they wanted. However, one of the shots we want was a 'Holi paint throwing image' -The pupils, the Head, the art teacher and parents were fully supportive but there was so much red tape to be unravelled - the origin of the paint, protective eye wear, not causing marks on the tarmac......all of which I fully understand but sometimes you just have to push on and say 'yes we are doing this'. The art teacher @Mrs_H11 did a sterling job and never wavered! The pupils response 'best lesson ever' - the results for their portfolios - amazing! 

Protection is needed but so is learning to manage your own risks! Thank you so much to the amazing staff and pupils at Darton - watch this space - we have other plans 

[1] Child Exploitation 21st Century Style.
[2] Sue Palmer Toxic Childhood page 58

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