Editorial : Playing it (too) safe

Jack Lamberg, 12, in full flight
Jack Lamberg, 12, in full flight

Back in 1998 a reporter noted what might have been an offence against school rules, and quite possibly the United Nations Rules of Engagement.

He noticed a game being played on the school paddock.

"A big lad with stout legs between his giddy-gout shirt and his ankle-high socks was leaning slightly forward, one hand pressed above his hip as if he had the stitch," he wrote. "He was breathing hard but he had a feral grin.

"Half a field away was his goal, a safety area. In his way were maybe 15 schoolmates. Sure, it was a mismatch, but . . . he'd survived unscragged and now seemed ready to make his last glory charge.

"He didn't get the chance. A teacher padded out of a classroom block and in moments the scene dissolved into artificial innocence."

It took the reporter just half an hour on the phone to confirm that bullrush - sometimes called King Caesar - hadn't disappeared in that 1980s and 1990s climate of concern. The great scrag game had survived in some schools, sometimes unofficially and in some cases sanctioned, albeit supervised and pretty much reduced to touch.

A report that Swanson Primary School's decision to "ditch the playground rulebook" and let children test themselves and burn their energy climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush seems to have struck a match with many a commentator. 


The school reported good behaviour was up, bad behaviour down.

The public consensus seems to be kids are not engaging with the tamer alternatives laid on for them and this was a win for robust, fundamentally healthy fun.

It's a theory worth studying.

That said, however, the willingness of commentators of a certain age to evoke how good things were then and lament how terrible they are now might be at odds with the way so many kids behave so well at school.

Let's not forget that school rules usually come from what parents want. Then there's a lot to be said for looking at what kids want to play and working backwards from there to see how we can make it acceptably safe.

The Marlborough Express