At last - a glimmer of sense

PUBLISHED: 12:18 17 November 2006 | UPDATED: 22:22 28 May 2010

IT came as music to my ears - a sign that our world might, just might, be returning to at least one level of normality. I know it s happening a long way from the Fens, and I know it s just one very small organisation. But if all those who worship thoughtl

IT came as music to my ears - a sign that our world might, just might, be returning to at least one level of normality.

I know it's happening a long way from the Fens, and I know it's just one very small organisation. But if all those who worship thoughtlessly at the altar of political correctness, and those who can't seem to understand that life itself can occasionally be a bit of a risk, could take a lead from Farley Nursery in Wiltshire then we could be on the way to undoing a lot of damage that has accrued in recent years.

What has this tiny nursery done that is so significant?

It has set its 20 youngsters free. Most of the day is spent outside in the fresh air, even when it rains. The pupils go inside only for breaks.

And what do they do when they are outside? They do the things youngsters enjoy doing - roaming around and exploring and, of course, getting gloriously dirty making dens and mud pies.

"This is how childhood should be," said the head, Sue Palmer, insisting today's world is too sterile, with children wrapped up in cotton wool, and that Britain has forgotten the importance of allowing children to be free.

She says there is nothing clever about her teaching style. Her children learn from whatever they find, such as logs, plants, stones or insects. And although the youngsters are allowed to go inside whenever they wish, they rarely choose to.

Her children have to wrap up to keep warm, and she makes a heart-warming and common sense point that, because of the way they learn ,they know that brambles will scratch and stinging nettles will sting. And when they sit around an outdoor fire they learn that fire can be dangerous.

She says her methods are seen as unusual only because society has become "so risk averse".

This is borne out by the fact that schools and other organisations have, over the years, increasingly restricted children's opportunities for adventure, fearing accidents which might result in costly litigation.

Other schools in Wiltshire have been checking out the Farley revolution and Ofsted has labelled the school "outstanding".

The challenge, therefore to all nursery schools in the Fens must be: We all know life can be risky, but unshackle your youngsters and set them free - Farley style.

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