I am compelled to share this

Truly, there are no boundaries to the surreal.

Or perhaps Rockhampton Regional Council wishes to demonstrate its sense of humour.

playground-sign-s-africaOr a particular world view taken to its logical conclusion – reductio ad absurdum

With thanks to Liselle Wolmarans  and Free Range Kids

It’s not all progress


I want in the article that follows, and the next one,  to consider aspects of the resistance, current and developing, to what can be called the ‘pro-risk’ movement in respect of play and outdoor learning.

In this, I’m as interested in the subjective, internalised, self-oppression experienced by at least some – I hazard to suggest actually many – practitioners, a symptom of which is abiding by norms that they rationally disavow, as much as objective factors such as the hold Standards have on thought and action. 

This piece, I’m afraid, ends in a minor key.

Progress and movement

I remember thinking myself rather bright – a momentary conceit – when, in some essay or other, upon which matter I cannot now recall, I drew a distinction between progress and mere movement, and the danger of mistaking the latter for the former.   It is, I think, a not uncommon error which, unchecked, can restrict vision to that which one likes to see.  The concomitant danger being threats, barriers and counter-currents come to occupy only one’s peripheral vision, or are pushed out of sight completely.

These musings once again tapped me on the shoulder as I enjoyed the splendid three day 5th International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) conference in Lund, Sweden, hosted by the formidable City of Lund’s Naturskolan team.   The programme included visits to some quite delicious school grounds and public spaces.  Green, ‘natural’ spaces, needless to say.  The taste reference, by the way, is not misplaced since the treats included first rate lunches grown and/or cooked by local schools.  Continue reading

A renewed, misguided ASTM attempt to change surfacing standards, a Guardian editorial and risk-benefit assessment

‘Bicycle helmets save lives’ a Guardian editorial pointed out today (27.09.2016) referrencing recent Australian research.

The editorial then posed the question:  Should wearing cycle helmets be made compulsory?  Now read on for the editorial’s succinct explication of a form of reasoning we have come to know as risk-benefit assessment.

‘From the point of view of accident reduction, the answer is entirely clear. Helmets do prevent some head injuries, and these can be very serious even when they are not immediately fatal. On the other hand, they are extremely rare. You would have to cycle tens of thousands of hours in Australia to get an injury requiring medical treatment. More than 10 times as many Americans were shot dead in 2014 as died cycling and, despite the headlines, most Americans are never going to be shot at in their lifetimes. The benefits of cycling can’t be translated into such striking figures but there’s no doubt that regular exercise prolongs and improves life in every way, and cycling is one of the best ways to make gentle exercise a daily routine….’

‘…Risk reduction cannot be the only grounds on which policy is decided. If that were the case, helmets would be compulsory for pedestrians as well, since it would reduce the seriousness of some injuries, and undoubtedly save lives too. The ultimate aim of public policy must be to enable and encourage human flourishing, and because we are complicated and contradictory creatures, that must involve a degree of self-contradiction and the balancing of some goods against others.  The sense of freedom and spontaneity that cyclists enjoy is not an illusion and has real value.’

It is a salutory paragraph that members of the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) committee on play equipment and surfacing would do well to read. Continue reading

An alert and call for action – a new Standard threat to play provision

This is an alert. An alert to all those – across Europe and wider – where European play equipment and surfacing standards are held, or will be held, to apply.   A new Standard is being proposed, one that will further undermine play provision.

Proposed change

The particular proposed change I focus on here (there are others) aims to introduce a requirement for onsite testing of playground surfaces, in particular, synthetic ones, for example, rubber.

Negative consequences

The proposed changes – designated (prEN 1176-1:2016 (E)) – if implemented, will have an entirely negative effect on play provision, piling on significant additional costs or, in an effort to avoid additional costs, providers may well feel compelled to close or further dumb down existing provision.

To demonstrate the scale of the potential increase in costs, one local authority has calculated that an additional annual amount of £400,000 would be required if the proposed change to the Standard is implemented. Continue reading

There is a link, I promise: Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and play

I accept that at first blush it might seem odd to link words such as play, children, teenagers, risk-taking to the international trade talks currently being conducted between the European Union and the United States of America.  But there is a link, and it is potentially a threatening one. The talks, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), has as its general aim the lowering of what are described as ‘barriers’ to trade between, in this case, the EU and the USA.

One aspect of the so-named ‘barriers’ are Standards.  Standards in respect of, among others things: environmental protection; specification of electrical goods; of additives to food; in respect of cosmetics and testing; and standards in respect of, well, play equipment and playground surfacing.

The TTIP negotiations are conducted in virtual secrecy – itself a major source of concern – but Greenpeace has managed to acquire confidential papers that reveal, in part at least, the state of play between the parties.  The now released confidential papers are, says Greenpeace, at some variance from the EU’s publicly expressed opinion. Part of what is revealed is the US demand that the EU be put under an obligation to inform the US, in advance, of any planned regulations and to allow them the same ‘input into EU regulatory processes as European firms’ (Source: Guardian. 2 May). Continue reading

Follow-up: copy of email from anti-sats test strike campaign – thought you might like to know

Wow what a 24 hours!

KS1 SPaG cancelled, national media outlets getting in touch with us to speak to YOU our lovely supporters up and down the country about the incredible #KidsStrike3rdMay events YOU are organising, mentioned in the New Day newspaper and on BBC Radio 4 breakfast news!  We also hit the 10,000 likers mark on our facebook page!

We believe this is the first time parents have made such an active stand against the Government on a national scale and we have achieved an incredible amount in just over 3 weeks by WORKING TOGETHER to show our SUPPORT for schools and teachers.

We are delighted that KS1 SPaG tests have been cancelled, however we need to carry on our campaign to make sure this is only the start as OUR children still have other SATs to sit in 2016.  We have the perfect chance NOW to show that teacher assessment alone IS enough and SATs should be removed from OUR schools.

For everything you need to take part on 3rd May please visit the Let Kids Be Kids website  – there’s FAQs, absence letters and you can add your event to our map to ensure that every person who makes a stand is accounted for.  Many wonderful headteachers and lovely class teachers have come out to support our campaign – we really think this is a turning point in how our children will be taught in the future.  Thank you for being a part of it.

We are very close to 25,000 people signing our peititon to support a SATs boycott… please keep sharing… Parent Power is proving to be very powerful!


Thank you, Let Our Kids Be Kids.

Parental strike against school testing – hint, intimation, or flash in the pan?

Straw in the wind?  Harbinger? Hint or intimation? Dunno.

Snowball in hell? Impossible odds? Flash in the pan? Dunno.

Still, worth noting that at the time of writing 24,412 parents (or people claiming to be parents) have signed an online petition supporting a strike – yes, worth reading that again: a STRIKE – that will keep some kids out of school for a day in protest against SATs testing at an early age.

Worth noting, too, is the parental plea – or do I mean ‘demand’?

‘ We want our kids to be kids again and enjoy learning for learning’s sake not for Ofsted results or league table figures. Bring back the creativity and the fun – say goodbye to repetition and boredom!’

‘Learning for its own sake’ .  There, in the second paragraph. Unadorned and unashamed.

A Headteacher writing in support of the strike, eloquently sets out the damaging consequences of high stakes testing.   The letter ends apologising for not signing the letter, or giving the name of the school ‘because I’m afraid of repercussions’.

Not to be pursued in this short blog, but there is a wider issue here, and that is the contraction of the public space available for independent thought and action.  Areas other than education should perhaps reflect on this.

Parents refusing to send their child to school without good reason – a strike is not likely to be seen as a good reason – lay themselves open to a daily fine of £60.00 rising to £120.00 a day if not paid within 21 days.  The price of independent action?

As to the evidence that might support the value of independence, there is none. It is not susceptible to the sort of evidence that is purportedly considered persuasive.  The Good Ship Independence must proceed under its own power, aided of course by a fair wind. But then, one can also make one’s own weather.

You may wish to sign the petition.