Danger is like disease. Children have to be exposed to a little of each to help build their defences. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has guidelines for safety education by direct experience.
RoSPA's research has uncovered 200 LASER - "learning about safety by experiencing risk" - centres around the UK, and only two in Scotland. So the charity is calling for a major expansion. Only 6 per cent of primary pupils visit a safety education scheme, says Errol Taylor, deputy chief executive. "This means thousands of children miss out on how to face challenges and lead more enjoyable lives."
Parents and children often worry about risks that are in reality small, while failing to learn about more common dangers that can be avoided or dealt with, says Peter Cornall, head of leisure safety at RoSPA. "Many more kids drown in swimming pools than are abducted. But half of 11-year-olds in one city surveyed couldn't swim 25 metres. Too many children are still being injured playing on building sites and railway lines, or playing chicken across a motorway."
In simulations at a LASER centre, children find out how to avoid getting injured and how to respond if they are. They learn to assess risks and discover how to take responsibility for their own safety.
"We have developed an accreditation scheme for these centres," says Mr Cornall. "So we will go in and check that they are doing the right things, that they have the right procedures in place and that they are tackling the real issues of child safety."
John Vallender, T: 0121 248 2114; E: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.lasersafety.org.ukproject.