Monday, 23 June 2008

A little local difficulty.

Caption – I want my Sports Day!!

It’s not often that our sleepy little coastal part of Sussex gets into the National News.

It’s even more of a surprise when it’s your eldest child’s Infants / Primary school that is making the headlines.

But towards the end of last week this was indeed the case as the Mirror, the Daily Mail and more reputable newspapers like the Times carried the story about the cancellation of the school sports day at Holmbush First School in Shoreham.

The Times picks up the story

‘A school has cancelled its sports day because the playing field is too uneven. One parent, Louise Powell, 32, said the move was ludicrous and the world had gone “health and safety mad”, but Rebecca Jackson, the head teacher of Holmbush First School in Shoreham, West Sussex, said the field used to be farmland and was full of cracks and holes. It would be ready for use next year, she said’.

The Daily Mail hitting their usual shrill hyperbole declared that the ‘Sports day was axed by ‘killjoys’ in case children tripped over and hurt themselves’

I didn’t read the Mirror’s account of the tale but I’m sure that from their point of view everything would have been the fault of vacuous Tory toffs – What Ho!

Now what the papers seem to have omitted to inform any of their readers was that there has never previously been a Sports Day at the school and that this field, shared with a neighbouring Special Needs Unit, had only recently been made available to them.

Earlier in the year the County Council had turfed the area to allow general use but the result had been a pretty dismal failure due to the weather at the time. It had come to resemble the Somme in 1916 rather than the playing fields of Eton. Further work was undertaken to reseed the area over the last couple of months but unfortunately it just wasn’t ready in time to hold the event as scheduled.

From all the information I have the school did all that it reasonably could have done to ensure that the Sports Day could take place. And that they really wanted to offer the pupils the chance to take part in this fun event. But a judgement was made that it simply wasn’t safe enough.

Part of the narrative over education in the recent past has been all about allowing head teachers (along with other public service professionals) to run their own schools and take control. Which is absolutely right. But one has to trust them to take decisions on all issues and accept that occasionally that they may come to a decision that you don’t like.

Obviously I know the Head Teacher, Rebecca Jackson, and if she says it wasn’t safe to have a three legged race on that field I trust her judgement totally.

What struck me were the reports of comments made by a few of the parents slamming the decision. Of course if their progeny had turned their dear little ankles during the egg and spoon race they would have undoubtedly been the first in line to denounce the slipshod and negligent approach to child safety adopted by the school.

The other aspect were the hordes of press photographers scaling the school fences to get pictures of the field in the hope of proving it was about as bumpy as the wicket at Lords. If rowdy teens had been photographed doing the same it probably would have been reported as the end of civilisation as we know it.

But there is one pleasing element in the story. On speaking to Fred’s form tutor this morning it appears that one of the journos had been doing a quick dash on the field to prove just how safe it was when they tripped over a bump in the ground and sprained an ankle.

Obviously the school will have to brace itself for some sort of legal challenge.


Liz said...

I'm glad the reporter fell!! Hearing the facts, a cancellation makes sense. Head-teachers need to be able to make their own decisions.

I wrote on my blog about a new school that is being built. An ancient monkey tree in the grounds has been declared a health hazard (sharp needles) and so should be cut down. For the past how-many years it's been in the grounds of the neighbouring school with no complaints.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

As a former sec chool teacher, I am glad to read your reasoned view of this. Of course th Head had to make safety her prime concern. Ironic ending to th tale!

The Wilted Rose said...

What is the world coming to when kids can't even have their sports day?

Chervil said...

Nice article, good to see somebody able to look at an issue with commonsense. I agree with welshcakes - nice ironic ending.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

The relevant articles don't seem to be at the linked pages?
From what you say it seems like the school have made the only sensible decision, although from my own school days I recall fields full of rabbit burrows etc and girls regularly falling over.
I do think there is a major issue with playing fields belonging to schools being locked 24/7, often the only fields available so kids climb over fences-accidents waiting to happen and I wonder who would be liable there?!

Lord James Bigglesworth said...

the world had gone “health and safety mad”

Indeed it has.

Letters From A Tory said...

Excellent story. I assumed it was blown out of all proportions when I heard about it, but thanks for the confirmation.

CherryPie said...

Love the ending :-)

jams o donnell said...

I do love happy endings!

...and the next year the field was safe for a sports day and everyone had fun and everyone lived happily ever after - except lazy hack Lunchtime O Booze who walked with a limp and found it harder to get to the pub....

Nunyaa said...

Better to be safe than sorry, ha lol at the journalist's misfortune.