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 178.

    I made a tonne of them when a youngster and look today I'm writing comments on BBC's HYS? Is that progress or what? Yeah I know theory of relativity is the qualifier but all the same I'm still looking for fun things to do like giving other people fits if I can on HYS.

  • rate this

    Comment number 177.

    I agree...I agree...I agree!

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    I had an unrestrained 50s/60s childhood with many others, in a semi-rural area at the edge of a large city.

    It was a nasty, Lord-Of-The-Flies-esque experience at times. Our parents' generation were in many cases too mangled by WWII to be any coherent guidance.

    I'd rather have had piano lessons and French classes any day.

    There's a lot of sentimentalised twaddle here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    Too much of this debate is focused on keeping up with the China's and S Koreas of this world. Why not look to Nordic countries and in particular Finland. Their children get plenty of growing up time and a good education that is not ruined by too many tests. Why would we want a nation whose only talent is cramming. We need people with broad knowledge, and the ability to retain it and apply it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    We have to hope that our children do not fall into the same trap that we fell into...Buy now....Pay later.
    Sadly.....the people promoting this idea....still is a good idea.
    And cut tte the Interest Rate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    We use to go out at 9.00 and back at 7.00, on our bikes fishing in the canal, football in the park. no mobile phones, yet again, there was not the crime around as everyone knew each other. it's great that kids should be kids but they will never have the same freedom as us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    Mr Heinrich makes a valid point re childhood.Parents today go from one extreme to the other re care for their children both of which can produce monsters.I recall an incident in the female changing room of the local pool where a mother wanted her 10yr old son there because of worrying about paedophiles.I had to say to her you have to teach them how to be safe then let go.Sad !

  • rate this

    Comment number 171.

    i agree that children should be allowed to explore and make their own mistakes i was and it made me a rounded individual and stopped me making the stupid mistakes that might have killed me. Today's kids are mollycoddled because parents fear the "stranger danger" and won't let their kids do anything. I was at more risk of abduction or abuse in the 70's when i grew up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 170.

    166. Polly8122

    'Has Gove responded?'

    Gove thinks children are just small adults and that childhood is a phase to be got through as soon as possible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    17. Graphis - And in later years learning the invaluable 'Hand goes up skirt', not down you idiot.

  • rate this

    Comment number 168.

    It's the 'age old truism', we learn more from our failures than we do from our success's

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    In my teens I had many visits to A & E and my dad had many visits to the bike shop for repairs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    It's a populist idea with a lot to commend it, well done Mr Heinrich.

    Has Gove responded?

    I'd love to hear his thoughts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    One thing I remember from childhood long ago is the ice-slide in the playground during the winter

    Some of the boys would get to school early and make the slide, black ice we'd call it today

    Then we all, boys, girls, young ones, older ones would form a queue and in turn, run into the slide, stiffen the leading leg and 'whoosh' for ten yards or so, then back onto the queue

    Happy days!

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    I blame the parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Fair point. I (& most friends in same circs), boarded from 13-onwards - I reckon by that age many children can deal with being away from their parents for longer periods (though holidays still last 1/3 of the year), less likely to feel abandoned; also more able to appreciate the postive aspects.
    Not so sure about younger children, having had no personal/family experience, just what I've read.

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    28-I don't care if other countries are racing ahead of us academically by turning their kids into robots.

    Scandinavian countries generally have the top academic standards.
    They have late starts and avoid the govt. controls, testing, targets, ofsted, care comm. that plagues UK. Their kids climb trees. It's this country that's trying to turn kids into compliant robots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    Excellent advice from the head. (P'raps gambling with money excepted.)

    My childhood would have shocked today's H & S experts, school inspectors, local government officers, insurance actuaries etc . . . yet I learned to love learning for its own sake and that has helped me remain in decent employment (self employment) and in enjoy life in today's fast changing world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    Having an idiot teenage sister in law one thing I've learnt is that some people, no matter how much in earnest you tell them, will only learn from making the mistake. And even then, sometimes the mistake needs to be made 3 or 4 times before they learn their lesson. She won't be meeting some guy she met of facebook last week anytime soon... fingers crossed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    Am pretty sure that most children are adept at learning from their mistakes.Sadly..the grown ups who venture into Politics..never seem to learn anything.Except the ability to stay in Politics.


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