The principal of a Glengormley primary school has defended the introduction of a controversial new policy banning children from running in the playground.
St Bernard’s Primary School brought in the ‘Walking-No Running Policy’ on Monday, October 12, meaning children are no longer allowed to run around at break and lunch times.
The ban on pupils running has been criticised by a number of parents, some of whom have vowed to challenge the move.
A copy of the school’s letter explaining the rule change was sent to the Newtownabbey Times by a parent who is unhappy with the ban.
The letter, which is signed by Principal Paul Flanagan, reads: “There have been a number of accidents recently both inside and outside of the school with children running and chasing others. As you can appreciate we have a very confined area for outdoor play. We have carried out a risk assessment and have decided from Monday 12th October we are introducing a ‘Walking-No Running Policy’ into our school. This is both internally and externally. This applies to the morning 8.45am - 9am, break time and lunch time. Football still continues on the football pitches.
“We hope to introduce a running track around the outdoor premises where each class can participate in this under supervision. All the children have been informed about this and we ask for your co-operation with this health and safety matter.”
Following an angry reaction from some parents, Mr Flanagan has defended the new policy.
“As a result of very limited playground space and in response to appeals from parents, we conducted a risk assessment and following consultation with pupils, the school has introduced this policy in order to make the playground a safer place for all the pupils to enjoy,” he said.
“We continue to promote healthy activities at all play times in our school however it has been necessary to eliminate the frequency and seriousness of accidents which have taken place to date. The play space around the school already falls short of the Department of Education guidelines and the school authorities are presently negotiating with the Department to increase this space. We understand there are many schools who operate this policy effectively and believe it is necessary for us to operate the same given the circumstances.
“Our playground is now a happy and safe place for children to be. This policy applies only when there are multiple classes in the playground. Physical Education classes are not affected by this policy. This policy will be piloted for the remainder of the term.”
Mr Flanagan stressed that the school would continue to pursue other activities at break times and lunch times.
“As a Health Promoting School, a vast range of extra-curricular activities are provided to the pupils and these are not affected by the policy. At lunchtime break we continue to offer a variety of healthy options for all children which include a running track for children, football and organised games, several bicycle tracks, play resources such as skipping ropes, gymnastics equipment, bowling, parachute games, agility bars, skittles and handball games. We are also one of the only schools locally who have a huge climbing dome and an Adventure Playground all for the children’s use. Physical Education classes are not affected by this policy,” he added.
• Read related story - Parents vow to challenge school over ‘no running’ rule