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Young people, risk and an exciting education

Rarely a day goes by when we don't read or hear about a serious health and safety issue in the news.

It can be easy to lose sight amidst all this that here in Great Britain we have one of the best health and safety records in the world, and many other countries envy our achievements.

We can only maintain this record in the future if we ensure that the next generation learns about the risks they are going to encounter in life, and how to deal with them.

One great example of how to do this is set by Llew Davies, the Pride of Britain winner and teacher at Ysgol Cae Top in Bangor. Here's a man who teaches his primary school class about velocity by racing office chairs in the gym. Who has structured lessons around building volcanoes and mock Formula One cars. And, crucially, who gets the fact that health and safety does not erect barriers to providing an exciting education.

I recently joined Llew and his Year 5 class for a history lesson with a difference: exploring the Roman invasion by building - and firing - siege weapons.

The children might not have realised it but this was actually more than a history lesson - it was a textbook example of how to not to over apply health and safety to a low risk situation. No goggles, hard hats or high viz necessary, no sprawling risk assessments. Just wooden sticks, sticky tape, elastic bands and lots of enthusiasm, from the teacher as well as the class. The kids were encouraged to give it some welly in firing their catapults, and the only safety briefing I heard was when Llew asked his pupils if they thought standing in front of a catapult about to be fired was the best idea. I suspect that most of the children fortunate enough to attend Ysgol Cae Top will remember Mr Davies for life. Let's hope they hold onto the hidden health and safety lesson too.

It baffles me why some people tangle themselves in pointless red tape, when others show that health and safety is actually pretty simple and straightforward.

You can't teach young people about risk from a text book - they need some practical experience. That's why cosseting children and seeking to remove all risk from their experiences ultimately leaves them ill equipped for adult and working life. When they join the world of work, young people need to be prepared to recognise and manage risk. Our system of regulation relies upon it.

On 30 March the National Trust launched a report calling for children to re-connect with the outdoors saying "we need to make it easy and safe for our children to get outdoors" - I'm right with them on that one and Llew Davies is already showing how it can be done!

2016-04-13