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No to conkers is plainly bonkers

PRIMARY FOOTBALL banned, skipping ropes tied up, conkers off the seasonal agenda - a sad piece of research has appeared (page 27) from south of the border. Schools are taking fright at the possible dangers from play that earlier generations enjoyed and benefited from. Even a much- loved and much climbed tree was cut down before the visit of an OFSTED inspector for fear of receiving an adverse report on the risks it might create.

The research was carried out in three English counties but there is no reason to assume that Scottish heads would be bolder than their southern counterparts.

The concern is twofold: pupils might get hurt and their parents might resort to the law.

Pupils' safety is the priority in every school but every teacher also knows that all risk can never be eliminated from activitiesin and out of the classroom. Learning to assess and cope with the challenges of everyday life is part of education - hence road safety programmes and bicycle training.

Today's children are allegedly more protected than ever before. The streets are deemed too threatening for unsupervised play. Even walking to a friend's house is thought too dangerous. To that extent, headteachers anxious to outlaw risky activities are no different from modern parents.

But the test of ridiculousness has to be applied. The fact that most people would laugh at a ban on conkers (as an offensive weapon!) suggests that it is foolish. Learning to take a knock on the knuckles from a hard chestnut, or tripping over a skipping rope is part of childhood - and of growing up. An ancient culture should not be under threat.

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