Bumps and bruises 'help to develop a child's character'

CHILDREN should be allowed to suffer bumps or bruises during their school days to help them build character, a leading headteacher will say today.

Christian Heinrich, chairman of the Boarding Schools Association, will tell his annual conference that more time needs to be spent on helping children to develop their curiosity.

The twin pressures of "moronic tests" and health and safety are forcing too narrow an education on too many pupils, Mr Heinrich, head of Cumnor House school - a prep school for four to 13-year-olds Haywards Heath in Sussex, will add.

In his speech he will say children learn "about curiosity in an environment in which it is possible and much encouraged to learn safely from your mistakes rather than to repeat them".

"So I exhort children at my school: 'Climb trees! Cook your own lunch! Drive a go-kart round the car-park (cordoned off!) Even play poker," he will add.

"There's more to school than classrooms and exams.  Make mistakes whilst the consequences can be managed and the lessons learned."

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Speaking to The Independent, he added: "What I'm getting at is that pupils should be given more freedom at prep school level to be allowed to be curious and go off in different areas that aren't going to be examines.

"We have struggled with constant measurement of SATs (national curriculum tests for 11-year-olds) and - in the independent sector - cognitive tests which the senior schools want to know the results of at nine, 10, 11 and 12..

"Traditional free time and curriculum time has been taken up with the moronic repetition and preparation for cognitive ability tests.

"We are not about making a child as intelligent at 13 or 11 through tests - we're about building a child's character and curiosity and prospects and potential.

"Children learn through exploring for themselves and that doesn't just apply purely in the classroom. It is equally to do with adventure outside the classroom even if maybe they get a bump or a bruise while doing it."

He will say that boarding schools can offer pupils "long hours" in which a wider curriculum alongside the core of academic subjects can be developed.

This gives pupils "a greater to develop the qualities we would all wish our children to have in spades: the very qualities that hold together society - the qualities that suggest there is more to society than just the individual and family". 

These included learning about sharing and borrowing, about other people's feelings, concerns and priorities and self-control and perseverance.