Learning Elf n Safey Aged 5 in Essex – beware of the leaves

Tom Winnifrith Tuesday 23 October 2012


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Today’s sad episode in the decline of Britain comes from Essex, a country where folks normally seem pretty sensible. But there are exceptions. In the village of Dedham (a lovely place near where Constable painted the Hay Wain) we learn what is on the curriculum at the village primary. Forget the Three R’s. Elf n’ Safey is what matters.

It seems that before the 4 and 5 year olds are allowed to engage in “outdoor activities” a small group of the toddlers are kitted out in yellow bibs and hard hats and sent outside to do a full elf n’ safey assessment. Are there any twigs or wet leaves that might cause an accident? How can we cordon them off to prevent disaster?

Headteacher Heather Tetchner says the risk assessment are “normal practice.. before they use anything in the “outdoor classroom”, they (the kids) go and do a risk assessment before all the children can access it…they go out with sheets and mark the areas that need to be talked about.”

Gauleiter Tetchner claims that the pupils had debated the dangers of two diseased horse chestnut trees in the school grounds : “When they did the autumn walk, they knew from the class teacher they were going to be walking, so a little subcommittee and the teaching assistant went to check out the path.”

I can only conclude that it is a bloody miracle that I made it past six. How on earth did I manage to go rambling across fields, climbing trees (even diseased ones), wading through streams risking life and limb by treading on twigs ( let alone jumping on fallen branches to break them as we used to do), chucking sticks up into trees to knock down conkers, etc, etc.

And we did all of this ( and survived the perils of wet leaves as well!) without any elf n’safey inspector. No-one ever got hurt. But I guess that it was all a miracle and I should thank the Lord that we all somehow survived.

I despair.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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