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Cotton wool kids have say on school playground safety

By Katie Weiss

CDU lecturer Dr Brendon Hyndman recently interviewed school students about playground safety influences CDU lecturer Dr Brendon Hyndman recently interviewed school students about playground safety influences

A culture of risk anxiety could be causing teachers and parents to wrap school children in cotton wool, according to a Charles Darwin University researcher.

International Graduate Centre of Education researcher and lecturer Dr Brendon Hyndman said it was important to encourage children to be physically active by allowing them to overcome small risks in the school playground.

Dr Hyndman recently interviewed 54 Victorian primary and secondary school students about playground safety influences, and suggested schools could benefit from including students in discussions on safety policies.

“It is really about getting the right safety balance to ensure protection from danger doesn’t prevent students from being active and taking risks,” he said. 

“It is important for children’s learning and development that they can confidently and comfortably take risks in the school playground to overcome obstacles through a process of trial and error.”

Concerns identified by interviewed students included boredom caused by a lack of play equipment, the need for trees for sun protection, drinking taps for hydration and spacious play spaces to prevent collisions.

The students also suggested the introduction of bullying surveillance and support strategies.

“As adults we can often focus on preventing the physical injury dangers in the school playground such as falls, so it is important to hear from the users of school playgrounds,” Dr Hyndman said.

“Incidents of sedentary behaviour and bullying can also be major safety concerns to the health of school children.”

A 2014 Federal Government Institute of Health and Welfare report revealed playground injury contributed to 38 per cent of hospital admissions of children aged five to nine during 2011 to 2012.

Less than one in five children are meeting the Australian physical activity guidelines of participation, which recommends at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day, according to the national 2014 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Young People.

The report by Dr Hyndman in collaboration with RMIT University researcher, Associate Professor Amanda Telford, was recently published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education.

The report, entitled “Should Educators be ‘Wrapping School Playgrounds in Cotton Wool’ to Encourage Physical Activity? Exploring Primary and Secondary Students’ Voices from the School Playground”, can be viewed at: http://ro.ecu.edu.au/ajte/vol40/iss6/4