When cussing gets the better of playing

6th February 2004 at 00:00
One thing that continues to annoy me is the fact that children can be attentive, eager to learn, performing well and doing everything just so, yet as soon as they step out of the classroom they have the capacity to turn into running-down-the-stairs terrors before stepping out into a great, wide, hedonistic expanse, otherwise known as the primary school playground.

Our playground is on a slope, which is the first hurdle for many children whose balance isn't great at the best of times. Add to this the series of potholes, a nasty gravel surface that can lacerate at the slightest touch, and an exposed nature that makes it the coldest place on earth in winter and like the Sahara desert in summer.

We do have a fantastic crocodile-style play structure - designed a few years ago by the Year 6s - which is over-run and, although great fun, can be the starting point for many Jackie Chan-style kung fu moves from the fireman's pole, despite the adult sentries that stand guard. Also, there are playground markings for prehistoric games such as hopscotch and duck, duck, goose, neither of which the children can play. You might add that we teachers could teach them, but as we were all born after Queen Victoria, we don't have a clue either.

It is the football-basketball champion matches that cause the greatest stir. I have a theory that many will recognise - children no longer know how to play together. This comes from computer game brain frenzy where victory is achieved with a laser gun or the ability to scale walls, making every child a winner. Call me cynical, but have we not seen our children try to imitate Lara Croft or Super Mario in the playground? Thus, a simple game of football can turn into a mass bloodbath of kicked shins and abuse - known in the child world as "cussing" - which means subsequent lessons are spent sorting out who kicked who and preventing any further Mafia-style playground activity. The old adage "it's the taking part that counts" is about as useful as the hopscotch game.

It almost makes me give up my coffee time to supervise them, just to give me an easier life. Almost.

Does anyone else feel like this? I haven't even begun to talk about wet playtimes. Trapping 30 caged children in a small, hot space with an overviewed Disney video, one game of Ker-plunk and an incomplete set of dominoes does not a happy group make.

I am not sure of the answer, short of erecting a giant outdoor screen where children can play arena-style PlayStation games, or dressing them in padded sumo wrestling suits to protect them from injury. Any suggestions?

Robin Warren

Robin Warren is a key stage 1 co-ordinator and student mentor at Hargrave Park primary school in the London borough of Islington

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