Safety measures ‘stifling’ children’s physical development

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playgroundChildren’s physical development is being “stifled” by health and safety as teachers are too scared to let them play outside, The Daily Telegraph reports the UK’s Office for Standards in Education Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) has warned. Nursery bosses have “undue concerns” about letting children run around and this is hindering their ability to build up muscular strength and dexterity, according to the education watchdog’s annual report.

Playing on climbing frames, having cooking lessons and going on trips are now regarded by early years providers as activities which are too risky as youngsters might get hurt in the process. Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools, said there is a “great deal of concern” among teachers about children injuring themselves. Speaking at the launch of the annual report in Westminster, she said that nurseries must understand that “lumps and bumps” are part of childhood. She added: “It is very important that children can develop physically, explore, do all the things they need to do to test their physical boundaries.”

Without taking risks, children’s “natural inquisitiveness” is stifled, Ofsted’s annual report said, explaining: “In the early years, a crucial part of preparing children for school is developing their muscular strength and dexterity. But we also know that in other settings this good practice is stifled by undue concerns about the risk and safety of such activities. While it is a basic expectation of any institution that cares for children to carry out proper risk assessments, some level of risk is an essential part of childhood.”

Gill Jones, Ofsted’s lead for primary and early years, said in the report that private nurseries have to convince parents that their children will be safe under their watch. “Some private providers say that they have to work very hard with parents because parents want their children to be really safe when they leave their baby and their toddler in a setting,” she said.

Jones added that some of the “more nervous providers” are not willing to take “risks” – such as allowing children to play on a climbing frame or go on school trips that involve crossing roads – because “they are frightened of the ramifications”. “Children are losing the ability to build their upper body strength, their muscles, their balance, their coordination,” she said. “All of these are really important factors for when children get older. And a child that hasn’t had upper body strength built, who hasn’t done the monkey bars, will not have the physical strength to write.”

The Daily Telegraph report

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