Page 28 - Independent Schools Magazine
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We need to talk about risk
Academics from Newcastle University recently suggested that boys and girls should not be allowed to play contact rugby, citing the risk of concussion and the longer-term problems that this could cause. It seems reasonable of course to take action in the interests of the health and well-being of our children. But the question of whether we allow contact in youth rugby leads to a wider-ranging and important debate about the level of risk we are prepared to let our children take. Headmaster of Abingdon School, Oxfordshire, Michael Windsor re ects...
 Let’s deal with the issue of rugby  rst. This is a sport that is thriving nationally and we are fortunate
to have a particularly strong club and school scene in the Oxford area. Undoubtedly the sport does carry some risk but this is hugely outweighed by the bene ts it brings, which are particularly valuable in a time where obesity is on the rise. It’s been really exciting to see the growth in the number
of people, and especially girls, playing rugby in recent years and it would be a real shame if this were to be reversed in response to the Newcastle research.
Rugby has changed signi cantly in its approach for younger players. The game that our children play
is very different from the one that
we see on our screens during the Six Nations. The changes made to youth rugby put the emphasis on skills and safety rather than physical power. For instance, scrummaging is introduced in a phased approach that ensures that we no longer
see weaker or smaller packs being marched backwards down the  eld at a dangerous pace.
Contact is introduced gradually
so that by the time players are involved at a senior level, they have had the chance to learn the skills that will allow them to tackle in a safer way. Far more sensible and rigorous protocols are now in place to prevent and treat concussion. Perhaps most importantly, the training offered to coaches and teachers is considerably more
professional and serious that it ever used to be.
Concussion is scary and can have very signi cant consequences. But
I see the response of the RFU as a good example of managed risk, an approach that is echoed in schools today in many different areas. Although we love to pour scorn
on the myths of health and safety gone mad, of conkers being banned in the playground, in reality I think teachers recognise that pupils do need to take risks sometimes in the interests of personal development.
Anyone who has seen the growth in con dence in a pupil who
has just completed her Duke
of Edinburgh expedition or completed his  rst solo climb can bear witness to the huge bene t
that overcoming challenge and risk brings to young people.
Adolescents are by their nature risk-takers, as they work out the world for themselves and challenge the rules that have been passed on to them by their elders. I would far rather they indulged their appetite for risk in an environment that
is controlled and fundamentally safe. Indeed, we need to see that dreaded phrase ‘health and safety’ as a concept of enablement, an approach that simply allows our young people to live their lives to the full in as safe a way as possible.
We will never be able to remove risk from the lives of young people. Let’s embrace it, manage it and then watch our children thrive.
  Time capsule stored in loft
 The Westward School, Surrey, 90th birthday celebrations were brought to a close with the creation of a Time Capsule stored within the roof eaves and not to be opened until 2107.
The children came up with their own ideas as to what should go in the Capsule. The selection of items included: uniform, ball, bag, pencils and pens, Code of Conduct, a library book, and a copy of Westward Times (the School newsletter).
The celebrations began back
in July with the Westward community gathering together in the Ferndale Theatre at Notre
Dame School to host a party celebrating all that is great about the School.
Pictured: (left) Mrs Jane Williams (deputy head); (centre) Mrs Patricia Townley (former owner); and (right) Mrs Shelley Stevenson at the school’s pre-Christmas birthday celebration
Head teacher, Mrs Shelley
Stevenson, once a Westward pupil
herself, recalled standing outside
the Westward front door, age
4, on her  rst day and how she
could never have imagined that
one day she would be teaching
the children of pupils she went
to school with. She explained:
“Westward has been part of my
life for many years and I feel
incredibly proud to be carrying on
the good work with my teaching
team in a School that began in
1927.” Pictured: The time capsule
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