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Ofsted chief inspector warns against 'risk-averse' school safety culture

09/08/2017 Joanna

The chief inspector of Ofsted has spoken out against excessive approaches to school safety that create environments in which students are afraid to take risks.

In an article originally published in the Sunday Telegraph, Amanda Spielman said many of the current approaches to health and safety in schools may be "creating an unnecessarily risk-averse culture" that is ultimately harmful to child development.

She cited examples such as the ubiquitous use of hi-vis jackets on school field trips, even when visiting indoor locations, or an instance of a primary school cancelling a sports day due to damp grass.

Ms Spielman warned that this overapplication of safety principles makes it harder for children to learn to cope with everyday levels of risk, and may also contribute to childhood inactivity by dissuading students from taking part in outdoor activities.

To address this, the chief inspector said she will be seeking to focus Ofsted's activities on making sure schools are upholding pupil safety without being excessive, commencing with a new training initiative later this summer.

This will seek to remind inspectors to focus on what schools are doing to identify children potentially at risk of real harm, how these children are being helped, and how they manage accusations and other serious problems with staff.

School leaders, meanwhile, will be empowered to make decisions based on their own judgement and experience, rather than being constricted by overly prescriptive policies.

Ms Spielman said: "Keeping children safe from harm should always be your overriding concern, but in doing so, make sure you distinguish between real and imagined risk.

"Trying to insulate your pupils from every bump, germ or bruise won't just drive you to distraction, it will short-change those pupils as well - limiting their opportunity to fully take advantage of the freedom of childhood, and to explore the world around them."
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