As we approach the Easter holidays after a very busy term, I wanted to share an article written by retired Headmaster Peter Tait with you. I believe it humorously captures the essence of youth, and typifies what good holiday activity should entail! I hope you can encourage your children to climb a tree during their Easter break. Happy holidays!
RISK ASSESSMENT POLICY: TREE-CLIMBING by Peter Tait
Subject of Risk: To assess the risks and inherent dangers of not allowing children to climb trees
Hazards: That children will grow up closeted and will not learn essential skills to ensure their own independent growth, to test their physical resources and capabilities; that they will lose the ability to commune with nature; that they will lose the capacity to see how well they operate above ground level; that they will never feel as comfortable with heights; that they will never develop the prehensile skills so useful in later life; and that they will always wonder what it’s like up there.
Step One: Expose children to trees. Turn children loose into woods and orchards. Remind children that trees are living things that need to be nurtured and treated with care. Teach respect for trees and all that dwell there. Ensure bird life is protected, that trees are shared, not commandeered.
Critical Control Point: Getting onto the first branch is usually the most difficult task. Leg holds may be difficult to find especially on less-accommodating trees without a judiciously placed branch system. It is suggested that a ladder may be found and a tree hut built as a way station (but let the children build it themselves, their way!)
Control: In the hands of passing adults who reminisce with children as to what it was like to climb trees in their day, how to reach the highest branches, how to build a tree hut, what are the most exciting trees to climb etc. Common-sense would prevail if it were felt children were in genuine danger – hanging from the tips of fir trees or preparing home-made parachutes may give cause for concern.
Monitoring Procedure: Reports of injuries resulting from fraternising with trees weighed against mental well-being of children. Difficult to assess – ask the children (self-assessment of risk is often the most reliable indicator of perceived risk).
Review: Annual by parents, staff and children. Children will laugh more often, smile and display grazes with child-like pride. Children will be more resilient, adaptable and creative. Children will develop a head for heights. Tree climbing is excellent for team-building.
Conclusion: While there is an obvious safety risk in children finding themselves above ground level, the risk of staying earthbound is infinitely greater. In all areas of life there is risk. The answer is not to avoid it, but to measure it and learn how to deal with it. Without taking risks this planet would never have been explored, mountains would never have been climbed, lifesaving discoveries would never have been made. We need to reach beyond ourselves and explore new domains. And if a tree beckons, then climb it! The world looks different several branches up – and take a book, just in case you want to stay there…
Duncan Sinclair, Prep School Headmaster