"Nothing ventured: balancing risks and benefits in the outdoors"
Do you think that kids are being over-protected and need more risk in their lives? If so, you may be surprised to find that the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) agree with you.
The English Outdoor Council has just released a fine report by Tim Gill,
"Nothing ventured: balancing risks and benefits in the outdoors" which "explodes the myths about safety on school visits and gives real reassurance to teachers"
Apart from some wonderful pictures of kids hurling themselves off waterfalls, there are some excellent quotes, such as
We need to accept that uncertainty is inherent in adventure, and this contains the possibility of adverse outcomes. A young person’s development should not be unduly stifled by the proper need to consider the worst consequence of risk but must be balanced by its likelihood and indeed its benefits. Tom Mullarkey OBE, Chief Executive, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
The report, supported by Judith Hackett, Chair of the HSE, says that
an approach that accepts that a degree of risk - properly managed - is not just inevitable but positively desirable,
and a series of myths are taken apart to show that the law is taking a sensible approach to school outings and the risks of litigation are exaggerated.
In a bold statement, Tim Gill says that
we need to recognise that there is such a thing as a genuine accident: from time to time, terrible things happen and noone is to blame.
There are even some statistics showing that on average 1 child a year is killed when taking part in outdoor activities, which they say is about equivalent to the risk faced by children left back in school.
For me, the most interesting recommendation is that the concept of 'risk-assessment' should be replaced by risk-benefit assessment, that explicitly takes into account what may be lost if too much caution is exercised. This mirrors the move towards uniform reporting of benefits and harms of medical treatments.
The author concludes that
All of these goals depend upon creating space and time for children to take a degree of control for their actions: giving them meaningful challenges that inevitably give rise to real risks. This means that the outcomes will never be entirely certain. While the risks can be managed, they cannot and should not be eliminated, and absolute safety cannot and should not be guaranteed.
Can we have that engraved on every school gate?