30th May 2008 at 01:00
Q: Our primary headteacher asks staff not to hold our reception children's hands in the playground, even when they cry for their mums
Q: Our primary headteacher asks staff not to hold our reception children's hands in the playground, even when they cry for their mums. Is this not cruel and unfeeling? - Sara, Basildon

A: Your headteacher's attitude would be entirely appropriate to a training camp for would-be marines, but to say the least, it's a little hard on small and vulnerable children.

Is this an example of political correctness or just old fashioned toughening them up for the real world? Either way, it doesn't wash. We teach the whole child, who cannot learn if heshe is distressed. It is simply human decency to want to comfort them - and professionally appropriate. - Richard, West Sussex

A: I can think of no better description than cruel and unfeeling. These are, after all, young children who will obviously go through periods of distress. Reaching out (literally) to young pupils in this situation is a decent impulse and will give the comfort that it is designed to.

I can't see why the head has a problem with this. Perhaps nobody held his or her hand when they were little. Pat, Brighton

A: We teach pupils about showing empathy. How can we expect them to develop and demonstrate this quality if they do not receive it from us?

I can think of few better examples of this than the one you mention, and your head is misguided. In fact the scenario you suggest could have been written by Charles Dickens. - Chris, Sutton

Coming up

Q: Why are six-year-olds being given levels by their teachers at primary school? Aren't they supposed to be enjoying structured play and learning to love books, counting and role play? Instead they are told: "you are level 2 or 3."

Q: I took over from a retired Year 3 teacher and she is now my main supply cover. Pupils and their parents adore her, and other staff have fond memories. When she's back, she lets the class run wild, rarely follows my plans and mollycoddles the pupils. Should I share my concerns about these occasional cover days or let it go?

Send your answer or any question you would like answered by your fellow teachers to We pay pound;30 for any question or answer published.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today