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 71.

    Easy to state in a safe setting such as boarding school grounds Mr Heinrich. There is far too much nastiness from the real world pumped into parents these days and we have a duty to protect our children. Ohh if we only could let them run happily and take those risks we long for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Mistakes must come with retribution - can we afford that with the claim culture? Certainly not in schools these days. Back in sixth form, I couldn't even play sports in an empty sports hall because no teacher was there. Imagine what will happen if a kid falls from a tree at school.
    If not school, where else?! Parents? they have so much work to do, most will do well to find energy to go out...

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Surely sitting in front of your I Pad or whatever, getting everything you want on a platter and being given prizes no matter if you win or lose is far healthier than this old fashioned nonsense.

    This bloke clearly hasn't been correctly socially reconstructed. Off to room 101.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Well I remember being frozen with fear, nearing the top of a rock face, unable to go up or get down again. My gloating older brother waited until I was on the point of losing my grip, before condescending to reach down to haul me up.

    Two lessons learnt: never accept a dare; never trust anyone or anything in life beyond absolute necessity.

    Now a father, I'm not sure I'd encourage this though.

  • 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.


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