Primary school head ridiculed after banning tag and introducing 'gentle hands' playground policy

Camilla Turner
Children are being encouraged to hold hands or clap with each other while in the playground - © lovethephoto / Alamy Stock Photo
Children are being encouraged to hold hands or clap with each other while in the playground - © lovethephoto / Alamy Stock Photo

A primary school headteacher has been ridiculed after introducing a “gentle hands” playground policy where children are banned from playing tag.

Joanne Smith, head of Rudyard Kipling Primary School in Brighton, has also banned pupils from engaging in any "physical" games. Instead, they are being encouraged to hold hands or clap with each other while in the playground.

But the policy has sparked a backlash among parents who have called for it to be axed as they say their children are left feeling bored during break time.

Mrs Smith explained to parents: "To clarify, 'Gentle Hands' does not mean 'no touching.' The children are of course allowed to hold hands or play clapping games with a friend should they wish to. Gentle Hands simply means playing games outside that do not need to be physical." 

The mother of a ten-year-old pupil  said that the policy is “completely backwards”, adding: "Sometimes, I don't even know what planet Brighton is on. 

"They're banning children from playing tag - why on earth would anyone thing tag is a bad thing? I'm going to teach my son about another game instead, that'll really scare the snowflake headteacher - kiss-chase."

It is the latest controversy that the school has found itself at the centre of. Earlier this year, parents launched a petition against plans to demolish the boys’ toilets convert the girls’ into “gender neutral” facilities.

At the time, the school said the proposals were not “set in stone”, and explained that the current boys’ toilets are being turned into a “learning environment”.

A spokesperson for the school, which was rated as 'Good' at the last Ofsted inspection, defended the “gentle hands” policy.

“We want to make sure the playground is a happy, safe and calm place where everyone can enjoy their lunchtime running around and getting the exercise we know is important to them,” they said.

"With the full support of our staff and our Parents Teachers and Friends Association, we have reminded the children of our 'Gentle Hands' rule during break and lunchtimes.”

The school said that there have been a few incidents in recent months involving “rough play” and “play fighting” that have made children upset.

The “gentle hands” policy simply means playing games that are not “overly physical and risk hurting or upsetting other children”, they said.

Last year, the head of Ofsted warned that children's physical development is being "stifled" by health and safety as teachers are too scared to let them play outside.

Nursery bosses have "undue concerns" about letting children run around and this is hindering their ability to build up muscular strength and dexterity, according to the education watchdog.

Playing on climbing frames, having cooking lessons and going on trips are now regarded by early years providers as activities which are too risky as youngsters might get hurt in the process.