I have been saying for years that the requirements for health and safety and risk assessments are too strict within the early years. It is like banging your head against a brick wall filling out endless paperwork. Ensuring the environment is properly assessed when you could be using that time to actually sit down with the children and provide meaningful opportunities for learning.
Don’t get me wrong, risk assessments are needed when working with children; but not to the extremes that they have become. Risk assessments are great for assessing risks like:
- Changing from cords on blinds
- Damaged toys
- Water danger
- Food – allergies and sizes of food
- Outdoor assessments for broken glass, animal faeces and damaged toys
I’ve mentioned how risk assessments are beneficial but now it has developed into extremes where professionals think twice before doing almost anything. I recently read in an article by The Telegraph stating how Children are denied chance to develop resilience. I read it and felt myself nodding along to every word. It is about time someone stood up and said what they thought, someone who has the power to make the change possible. Children are so wrapped up in cotton wool these days that they aren’t able to experience and measure their own risks. Children have to be able to decide whether the risk is too high and if they could hurt themselves in the process. Without being able to measure their own risks children grow up not gaining that crucial resilience that they need as they progress into young adults.
Make a change
Within the article the Ofsted chief mentions about children not being made to wear hi-vis jackets when on outings. Stating it makes them look like a “troupe of mini construction workers”. I did laugh when I read it but it is true, we need to normalise outings for children and not make them feel silly in the process. Yes I agree that there should be risk assessments on outings and there should be precautions in place but surely they could all wear wristbands or something a bit more low-key and less conspicuous. There is a difference between risk assessing and safeguarding.
Being this overcautious with risk assessing is truly limiting their experiences. Not just in nursery and school but in their life. Children pick up on things and notice by just our facial expressions how we react to risk. This is why it is important to let them have the experience and not show them our fear. Our fear in turn becomes their fear.
Examples of risk assessment gone too far
- A teacher popping a child’s balloon and throwing it away because it was ‘dangerous’
- A school cancelling sports day because there was dew on the grass
This is the sort of thing we should be encouraging.
Where do you stand?
Where do you stand on risk assessments for children?