Education & Family

Children 'should be allowed to learn from own mistakes'

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

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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