Health and safety advice is sticking point for exasperated teachers

19th June 2009 at 01:00

A five-page briefing on the dangers of Pritt Stick and use of goggles to protect against Blu-Tack misuse are among the health and safety initiatives negatively affecting pupils' learning, according to a new survey.

The survey, by Teachers TV, reveals that 44.3 per cent of teachers and support workers believe that excessive health and safety regulations have had an adverse impact on pupils' education.

And 46.5 per cent claim that the regulations have restricted pupils' personal growth. The same number insist that their own jobs have been made more difficult by these rules.

The 585 respondents were asked to list some of the most obtuse regulations they had encountered. Responses included rules against running in the playground and snowball fights in winter.

In one school, children were prohibited from venturing outdoors without a sunhat and sunscreen.

Others found that regulations affected their ability to teach even simple art or craft. One teacher reported that pupils were not allowed to use Blu-Tack without first donning protective goggles. Another received a five-page briefing on the dangers of improper use of Pritt Stick.

But Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, insists that health and safety regulations are essential.

"It's become a bete noire," he said. "But there's a lot of common sense in it.

"Children must be allowed to experiment and learn. But you have to have some sensible rules. I don't think we'd want every child to run across the road, to find out what it's like to be run over by a car."

The survey was conducted to coincide with Teachers TV's child-safety week.

Andrew Bethell, the channel's chief executive, fears that the more extreme cases it highlights could ultimately endanger pupils.

"These things bring health and safety into disrepute," he said. "If teachers have to fill in a nine-page form to take pupils on a walk to the park, the danger is that teachers won't take proper risk assessment for something like potholing.

"Teachers need to be helped to make sensible prioritisation."

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