Pupils ordered to wear goggles to play conkers
Jay Narain – Daily Mail October 28, 2009
Pupils who want to play conkers in the playground have been ordered to wear safety goggles - because of health and safety fears.
Headteacher Polly Broadhurst has insisted that children playing the traditional game at her school should wear goggles to protect their eyes.
But parents have condemned the 'nanny state' ruling and even health and safety bosses say the school has gone too far.
Parent, Peter Fancy, 44, a father-of-two, who manages a pub, said: 'It is an absolute farce. It's a joke. We have a lot of kids coming into the pub so does that mean we have to give them goggles to wear when they eat their peas?
'Or will we have to hand out shin pads when they use the pub garden for football? Where is it going to stop?
'I played conkers when I was a kid for years and years and I don't ever remember anyone getting bashed in the eye from it. It was your knuckles you had to worry about - maybe they should all be wearing steel gloves.'
One mother, who did not want to be named, said: 'We are wrapping our children up in cotton wool. The risk of damaging your eyes while playing conkers must be a million to one.
'Are we going to stop our children playing sports or taking part in other playground games? It is ridiculous.'
And Keith Flett of the Campaign for Real Conkers said: 'There is a very small chance that a piece of conker might fly into your eye but you could get a piece of grit in your eye walking down the street - and you wouldn't wear goggles for that.
'It's been a good year for conkers this autumn but I have seen a lot of them lying around uncollected and this health and safety obsession may be part of the reason.'
Last night even the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the dangers of a game of conkers had been exaggerated and there was no national ban.
A spokesman for the HSE said it had even produced a poster showing children playing conkers in a bid to end the 'myth'.
He said: 'This is one of the oldest chestnuts around, a truly classic myth. A well-meaning headteacher decided children should wear safety goggles to play conkers.
'Subsequently some schools appear to have banned conkers on 'health and safety' grounds or made children wear goggles, or even padded gloves.
'Realistically the risk from playing conkers is incredibly low and just not worth bothering about. If kids deliberately hit each other over the head with conkers, that's a discipline issue, not health and safety.'
But Miss Broadhurst, headteacher at Adlington Primary School in Macclesfield, Cheshire said: 'We are quite an academic school and were determined the kids should have some fun - but we do it safely.
'In terms of wearing goggles we just considered it was better to be safe than sorry. Conkers are generally frowned on now because a child somewhere in the country, at some point, has been hurt playing a game. I suppose it does really show that health and safety has gone over the top.'
A spokesman for Cheshire East Council said: 'We are keen for children to look back on their schooldays with fondness and the games they play at break times will form happy memories.
'While the safety of schoolchildren is our first priority, it is a matter for individual schools to decide on their policy over conkers.'
Children at the school said they were happy to wear the goggles.
Jake Gilfillan, 11, said: 'I covered mine in vinegar so it couldn't break. The goggles made it safe and I'll wear them again next time I play.'
Calum Kendal, 10, said: 'It was only my second time playing conkers and it was fun. I think the goggles made it safer because they can fly off the string and it could get you in the eye.'
Children each paid 50p to enter a tournament and the cash raised was used to buy bulbs to plant around the school.
Ironically no one won the competition because the children could not smash each others' conkers.
Last updated 01/11/2009