Such re-evaluations occur regularly after playground tragedies, even if they are statistically insignificant, said David Yearley, of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. “As a society, it’s difficult to say, ‘We need to accept a one in 60 million chance of death,” he said.
Ask the teachers at the Richmond Avenue Primary School, though, and they will tell you that exposing children to limited risks now, while they are young, will help them survive.
In 1903, when the school opened, its purpose was straightforward: to provide the children of fishermen and farmers with basic literacy and math, enough to take over their parents’ vocation, said Debbie Hughes, the school’s head teacher.
“There used to be very traditional jobs — blue-collar worker, white-collar worker, you’re going to be the electricians and plumbers, you’re going to the typist pool,” she said. Schools of that era, she said, were designed to turn out rule followers.
“We’re very proper, aren’t we?” she said. “We have always done as we were told.”
But rule followers are unlikely to be rewarded in the future, said Ms. Hughes, whose twin 19-year-old children have just entered the work force. As she thought through these changes, a towheaded kindergartner nearby had fashioned a catapult, stacking seven bricks on one end of a wooden plank and jumping solidly onto the other end, sending the bricks flying into the air, over the heads of his playmates.
“You’ve got to get out there and find your position in the world,” Ms. Hughes said. “If you don’t give those children those creative skills, that risk, that take a chance. If they don’t have all that risk out there when the child is four, the adult isn’t going to do that.”