Do you segregate children in the playground?
According to Ken Muir, the chief executive of Scotland’s regulatory body for teachers – (the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), many schools are separating pupils by age and gender in playgrounds. He also has a pop at single-sex schools, saying
How can we be serious about creating a more equitable, coherent and integrated education system when we continue to have single-sex schools and Dickensian segregation in playgrounds which mean that children are unable to play with friends, sisters and brothers across age ranges and genders?
I’m not sure what single-sex schools are supposed to do and I’m not sure where Ken goes but in my experience there aren’t many schools that segregate by age and gender.
I think the real issues are what children do at break times and the fact that in some cases they can be over-policed.
Health and safety is important at break but adults do get in the way. They get in the way so much that children’s play is often bent out of shape. The importance of free play is often ignored.
We can’t have an adult-free break because children need teachers to turn to and teachers have a few responsibilities. It is their duty to:
- to help the children build friendships
- to aid the injured
- to listen to both sides in a dispute and help the children to come to an amicable solution
- to be aware of possible dangers and try to prevent accidents
- to encourage good language, sharing, friendship and consideration for others
Sometimes teachers are too visible and this alters children’s behaviour.
If adults patrol and mingle with children then you will always get the over-excited ego-teachers joining in taking centre-stage. If it’s not them then its teachers who unwittingly get roped in. When this happens then the dynamics change and it is no longer children playing.
Children need opportunities to play away from adults because it helps them create their own ideas, problem-solve and develop new skills. An adult can be like having a huge spanner in the works.
Children need time and space to exercise and play happily and securely with their friends but they don’t need adults spoiling their fun.
Breaks are for children and so we should leave them alone to play.
Teachers need to be playground professionals, not holiday reps and this means doing your duty from the perimeter, being unobtrusive and not interfering unless there is a need to.