Unsafe to play, warn parents

PLAYGROUNDS are left unsupervised in small schools, compromising pupils' health and safety, according to parents.

A survey of schools with fewer than 50 pupils, carried out by the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, unearthed one Highland primary situated between two main roads where the education authority has rejected an offer of voluntary help by two parents.

The school's head said in her response: "I am horrified that we have no supervision, worry constantly about the safety of the children and rely heavily on older pupils to ensure that the school gate - old and in need of repair - is kept closed and that infants do not wander out of the grounds. "

The school's parental support group says police clearance was obtained for the volunteer helpers but the offer was turned down. The SPTC wrote to the authority asking for an explanation.

Bruce Robertson, director of education in Highland, replied that no concerns had been expressed about playground supervision and said it was the head teacher who felt it was unnecessary to recruit parent helpers.

Mr Robertson said: "This is the situation in many other schools and indeed in some cases schools have reported that the use of volunteer parent helpers for such duties has created tensions for other parents."

He pointed out that the council had allocated pound;25,000 to build a new car park and resurface the playground at the school, which would ensure children and vehicles were completely separated.

Local authorities are required to provide playground superviion in schools with more than 50 pupils. The rest are expected to make an attempt to find supervisors, but many give up because of cost or because nobody is available.

Judith Gillespie, the SPTC's development manager, said there was a need to take a second look at the situation. "The distinction between schools with more than 50 pupils or less is fairly arbitrary," Mrs Gillespie said.

The survey was sparked by one parent concerned at the potential for bullying at playtime . The survey, however, only uncovered one reference to bullying and that came positively in an observation that "the children and staff have very clear guidelines for dealing with complaints, bullying behaviour, injuries, etc ".

The survey drew an exceptionally high response from 69 schools out of 77 members with rolls below 50. Although 44 reported they had some playground supervision, many of these could also have been classified as not having any. Only 16 of the 44 schools with supervision had a dedicated supervisor while another 12 split the duties between auxiliaries, janitors and teachers.


* "Teachers are constantly on duty from 8.40am until 3.30pm without a true break."

* "if playground behaviour warrants it, the headteacher will patrol at random intervals."

* "Pupils are very good at looking after the wee ones wherever they go."

* "In my year and a half I have not had any incident that I felt would have been better dealt with or prevented by the attendance of a playground supervisor."

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