School's Play with No Contact Policy Upsets Students and Parents
By Yvette Vignando - 15th June 2012
A primary school principal in Victoria, Australia has told children to "play with no contact"; the Principal explained that this direction came "directly from a safety perspective". In setting the background to this rule, Principal Ms Beckworth said the school had "a broken collarbone, broken wrist and concussion" . Children were so upset with this ban that Year 6 students are reported to have protested with some kind of 'sit in' on the oval at lunch time. It is reported that the school put a stop to the protest and that the students were called into the school hall to be spoken to about that behaviour. Parents are also reported to be upset by the ban and because the school did not consult the parent community first.
My view is that asking kids to play with no contact is a mistake, even if the ban is a temporary one. Children should of course be encouraged to play without hurting other students, but there is a big difference between dangerous play and play that involves contact. However, I do have sympathy for teachers who may be facing challenging playground behaviour and I wonder if the "no contact" rule was some kind of last resort in this case?
One parent from the school is reported to have called a radio station saying that her child was disciplined for putting his arm around another child who had fallen over. The school policy was instituted until the end of this week and its newsletter issued only today states that the school has taken a "strong stance of zero tolerance for contact" and aims to promote a "serious about safety approach".
On contacting the Victorian Education Minister's office to enquire about the policy, I was told that the Minister hopes that "common sense will prevail" and that it is always preferable to consult with parents before significant decisions are made about children's wellbeing. I contacted the school to find out more about the temporary policy and I was invited to send my questions directly to the Principal - I have done that so I will report back.