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Penny Booth: The 'Dangerous Book for Families'

Date:14 SEP 2010

Penny BoothI am thinking of getting round to a new publication - the ‘Dangerous Book for Families'.

I don't know the details of how this will work, but a new curriculum suggested for boys (aka ‘Dangerous book for boys' style) proposes some new activities for youngsters of the male variety. Pity the girls aren't invited - perhaps because it is the boys falling behind at school, and who need this extra attention ‘qua boys' as it were. Looks to me like the sort of activities that used to be popular in the long holidays, aka ‘summer holidays' when school finished for six whole weeks. The Dangerous Book for Boys culture proposed by Michael Gove rides roughshod over the health and safety culture currently presiding over the diminution of ‘dangerous childhood' generally.

I agree with this representative of HM government. School has got a little too ‘risk-averse' (a reflection on our pathetic attempts to prevent life from happening) and one of the results of this is the inability of youngsters to be able to judge ‘risk' at all. All those risk assessments being produced, and teachers who have never been encouraged to take school trips out because of the extra work involved and the fear of parents ready to sue at the drop of a little Johnny or Jenny. I really do agree - and for a different reason in addition - after all, it is much better to sue where there's some likelihood of getting money if you win. All those snippets of legal advice (to school and parents) will be great - we can even have a website. Who is paying this time?

Suggestions of abolishing the six week summer break do not seem to me to be to be a good idea. The problem is not its duration but it is ‘who looks after the children?'       If I am right, then solve that problem and don't tinker with my time to get the harvest in just because you have no-one to look after the children. Helping parents to look after their children, advising families about spending their time and make provision for family outings seems to be a better use of resources in localities. Don't split up the very period of the year that has become for many the time for opportunities to get away, or for making day trips to do things with the children, not when much of the rest of the year is so packed with work that parents never have time to spend with their children and help them to develop as rounded individuals.

It may be true that other countries have more time in school and less time away from the classroom, but we start school earlier and finish compulsory schooling later than many. Whilst it is right to worry about those families where the parents never seem to do much with the children, the answer is not to reduce the summer holidays, it is to help parents use them better. I would rather have the long summer holidays used properly than five terms and restarts through the year. There seems, in the UK at least, to be something sympathetic to nature to have breaks in December, March/April and late July through August. It's bad enough having exams in May/June. Alas, though, it's hardly likely that there will be any help forthcoming in the ‘current economic climate' when children's services are suffering and necessary provision faces cutbacks.

Mind you - news that pupils will be taught first aid for binge drinking seems a top idea to me. Well done, Red Cross. Let's see if the children vomit all over their best mate rather than over the local policeman, ambulance-driver or a parent coming to collect them. The peer reaction to that might just have an impact where all the warnings about drinking (under-age or not) has fallen on befuddled young ears.

Penny Booth is running the Great North Run for Age UK on 19 September, 2010. This is a half marathon and should she manage to complete the 13.1 miles then please coinsider giving a donation to Age Uk via www.justgiving.com/PennyBooth

Penny Booth is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.