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 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 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 89.

    Memories coming back in waves now Taking to our bikes for a days exploring...packed lunches, 10p for the phone (in case anything happened!!), jumping into the pool at the quarry, dragonflies buzzing us...rolling about in the straw in farmers fields...feeding horses....climbing trees, fixing bikes...playing Coldiz (the boardgame) in a tent in the garden...collection returnable lemonade bottles..

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Everyone carries out tasks to their own level of percieved risk.

    If you make things safer they tend to compensate in terms of the danger of the task to match their perceived risk.

    Wrapping children in cotton wool is the worst thing you can do, its like keeping them in a virus free environment - no immunity develops.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    If I let my kids go out from dusk til dawn I would be accused of letting them run riot. It may be safe but it's simply not socially acceptable. If my child regularly hurt himself falling from a tree I would be investigated for child abuse. I'm expected to discipline my child, but not allowed to smack; even raising my voice gets glaring looks in public. Parents of today cannot do anything right.


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