Headteacher’s blog 24th May 2019
I spent the first three days of this week on residential in the Yorkshire Dales with 5L. We had a good trip, including caving, mountain biking and a river study. After half term, it will be Y6’s turn, heading off for a spectacular Outdoor Adventurous Activity (OAA) residential at How Stean Gorge including abseiling, gorge scrambling, via ferrata and canoeing. OAA is an important part of the PE curriculum, providing exciting new experiences for many of our children which, hopefully, will inspire them to a lifetime of activity and enjoyment in the countryside.
Whenever I see a child ‘in a pot’ I am relieved if I hear that they did it at home. Is that bad? Despite all our risk assessments, the presence of three qualified coaches and detailed knowledge of the course, we did have a nasty accident on the mountain biking this year. This is a painful experience for the child and family involved and a chastening experience for me and the staff. We have a good safety record – this is the first broken bone in the last 25 years of leading residentials – but nonetheless we are reviewing the activity and our management of the risks. Similarly, we have had some injuries on the school site this year. Some of this has been related to the new play equipment but the safety surfacing is principally designed to mitigate against head injury: research suggests that ‘long bone’ injuries are still likely despite the presence of safety surfaces. I am also mindful that the two worst on-site injuries I can recall in my 15 years here at school were the result of a girl doing a gym move on the grass and a child sitting in a tree just a metre or so from the ground: seemingly benign, simple oft repeated activities that just went horribly wrong.
Health and Safety is very important and is a regular, standing item in staff meetings. Nevertheless, sometimes things happen that can’t reasonably be predicted. Typically, we take the view of the Royal Society for the Protection of Accidents: “One of the functions of children’s play is about exploring the environment, the objects in it and the child’s own body and mind. Play is about doing and it is inevitable that mistakes will happen. RoSPA’s function is to reduce the severity of injuries – not to remove all possibility of harm.” Be Safe is one our key ‘learning hive’ mottos but having a fulfilling, healthy life does involve assessing and managing risk. Learning this – at home or at school – can be painful.