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Daily Telegraph: "Outdoor learning: double dare" HSE Chair responds

Letters to the Editor
Daily Telegraph
1 Canada Square
E14 5DT

16 September 2008

SIR - I enjoyed your article on children experiencing risk through adventurous activities (Double dare, magazine 13 September). What a pity we were cast, incorrectly, as opponents rather than supporters. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) agrees completely with headmaster Robert McKenzie Johnston's comment that "it was not set up to stop schools doing things or as a reason not to do something"

HSE does not advocate wrapping children in cotton wool; we are here to save lives, not to stop people from living them. Adventurous activities, in the playground or elsewhere, provide ideal opportunities to make children 'risk aware' by involving them in practical decision-making in challenging environments.

Every day a vast number of such activities go ahead in Britain's schools without a hitch. If we were to stop them we would deny children their right to learn, develop and have fun. HSE has consistently called for these activities to continue, with any risks being responsibly managed and we are happy to provide advice and guidance on how to go ahead which is why we visit before accidents happen.

We applaud those teachers and helpers who give their time and energy to follow best practice and do the job safely and properly. Our message to teachers and parents is that risk itself will not damage children, but ill-managed and over-protective actions could do so.

Judith Hackitt CBE

Chair, Health and Safety Executive

Rose Court

2 Southwark Bridge

London SE1 9HS

Updated 2013-01-23