Children 'should be allowed to learn from own mistakes'

Boy in a tree Take risks and climb trees, head urges children

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Children should be encouraged to take risks and make their own mistakes while they are still young enough to learn from them, a heads' leader says.

They should have time to play poker, drive go-karts and climb trees, says Christian Heinrich, chairman of the Boarding Schools' Association.

He also warns against hurrying children "into the rest of their lives".

He will tell his association's annual conference to remember there is more to school than classrooms and exams.

Children should be given time to develop life skills and enjoy their childhood as well as study, he will tell boarding school heads meeting in Brighton.

He will say: "Childhood may only be a 16th or 17th Century invention in terms of European literature; it may be peopled by the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny and Cabbage Patch dolls, as well as by childish innocence, good faith and anticipation.

'More childhood'

"But, sadly, even tragically, in much of the rest of the world it seems to be only a partially existent state, or a non-existent one. We are blessed in our schools with the ability to nurture it and to extend it.

"Remember, childhood, once lost, never regained. Let us not hurry children into the rest of their lives.

"I have my placards ready for a march along the seafront, 'Fewer tests, more childhood'."

He will stress that pupils attending boarding schools, such as his own prep school, Cumnor House in West Sussex, are encouraged to learn safely from their mistakes "rather than to repeat them".

Mr Heinrich will say: "So I exhort children at my school, 'Climb trees! Cook your own lunch! Drive a go-kart around the car park (cordoned off!). Even play poker!'

"There's more to school than classrooms and exams. Make mistakes whilst the consequences can be managed and the lessons learned."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Mistakes are valuable lessons to learn how to deal with, as we make them throughout our lives.
    Bravo Mr. Heinrich you have restored my faith that one day, hopefully, we can end this molly coddled, politically correct, nanny state in which we find ourselves today,
    Long live childrens smiles. Aaaaah the fun we had.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    @65 Francesca
    My daughter's legs are covered in bruises from various falls and bumps, in fact, she rarely doesn't have bruises somewhere. I'm still taking her swimming this afternoon. Frankly, I'm more worried about 8-year-olds who *don't* have bruises where you can see them. Stop worrying about what others think, discipline your kids, and let them live a little :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    They still do make mistakes. They spend their entire lives texting each other about their meaningless lives instead of living them. They confuse cyber space with real life. They ignore the natural world even as it is being stolen from them.

    Big mistakes. They'll regret it later.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    It is a sad fact that many of the things that I did as a child would now 1.Get me arrested.2.Get my teacher struck off or 3.simply be banned. As kids we ALL had guns, catapults, knives and bows. On a school canoeing trip we all ended up skinny dipping in the river at night, NOT sex abuse just childish fun. A little older and we got drunk. We all grew up to be good citizens with no social workers

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    how else do people think kids will learn anything. Let them make mistakes, come last in a race, feel disappointed and elated etc etc.

    Its time this PC 'can't say or do anything to upset the kids' rubbish was stopped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Whilst I agree with the sentiments he expresses - why are there so many voices from the private education sector on the BBC, rather than the majority state school sector. Private education providers do not have any monopoly on advice, and lets not forget they profit from the state sector through teacher training etc. Still its all marvellous PR for the private school system!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    No 105. please define a "normal" environment for a child!

    boarding schools have good and bad points, like everything else in life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    I think we all know who should be education sectretary. Here is someone who actually cares about our kids lives and education rather than just scoring political points. Career politicians should be banned from MP/ministerial posts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Christian Heinrich probably speaks for a surprisingly large majority of parents and teachers when expressing his views. It's a pity that children will never be allowed to enjoy the benefits of such an enlightened approach because of the overly vocal molly-coddling monority, health and safety and, last but not least, ambulance chasing lawyers/greedy parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    That sounds like the best bit of common sense I've heard in years! Thanks to Mr Heinrich for articulating those thoughts. Risk evaluation is an essential part of life. And one excellent way of evaluating risks is to take them - while there are loving parents around who can cuddle their kids and patch up the wounds.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    I completely agree, the problem is with us parents. We choose a child minder because they get our children ready for nursery, a nursery because they get our children ready for primary school etc. We're always looking over the next horizon and making our children anxious. Enjoy the now, it'll never happen again. Jesus had it right 'do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    Nothing but admiration for you Christian if only the rest of this rat race thought the same.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Children should be allowed to go out & play safely which in this day & age is a problem saying that they should as we did as children go out & get dirty fall out of trees fall off walls eat mud etc it never did any of us any harm & I believe helped build our immune system you never heard of so many suffering with this or that allergy all comes down to being politically correct & fear of being sued

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Children in Boarding Schools is an unnatural environment. they should be with their parents, not palmed off on strangers.
    As for freedom to play around, that's fine so long as time is spent learning skills that will prepare them for the time when they become independent and need to build their own futures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    No 88 - I went to a state boarding school and it was the best time of my life!
    I joined aged 10 and spent my spare time playing in the woods, climbing trees, even floating down the burn when it flooded; as well as the numerous hobbies and clubs the school arranged.

    I love & respect my parents and wouldn't speak to them the way I have seen others (from "normal" schools speak to theirs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    I was at a mentoring scheme meeting last night in a Cambridgreshire school for business people to come into the local school's sixth form and give guidance to students about taking the next important step in their lives. It was refreshing to hear a superb head teacher say that it was important for her students to learn how to fail. I hope more teachers follow her lead

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    As long as this doesn't go too far the other way, then this is to be welcomed. Children (and indeed some adults) need to learn to understand the concept of risk and danger. This school head should be awarded a knighthood for common sense thinking; something that seems to be lacking these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    I agree with his comments but unfortunately, we live in a warped society and given todays headline regarding April, I just want to run home and wrap my children in cotton wool. Who wouldn't?

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    I've experienced both sides of boarding, both pupil and Housemaster. At Prep school, we were free to learn. I learnt more outside the classroom than in! Nowadays, I have to do a risk assesment, then the paper work and then more paper work to say I've done the paper! It's mad. The boys just resort to 'gaming' as it doesn't require stupid amounts of work for them, us and their parents. VERY sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    When my friend's daughter fell out of a tree on school grounds and broke her arm he told the head teacher that if the school either stopped others climbing the tree or worse chopped down the tree, he would remove his daughter from school. The head gave a speech at prize giving saying how children must be free to make mistakes and get injured if they are to develop into well-adjusted adults


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