In the classroom, a safe environment is fundamental. If the children feel their foundations are safe and secure, they will feel more able to extend their understanding and challenge themselves. And that will aid their education.
Safety in the classroom can encompass many areas. We’ve broken these down into 10 action points are generally considered both systemically by the best schools, and also individually by teachers.
Firstly let’s think about some safety issues within the classroom:
1) Consider the classroom layout.
Check that the children can easily navigate around both the classroom and one another. Also, check doors are easy to open and close without obstructing anything and children can readily reach their education materials. If children find it hard to move around the classroom, they may get in one another’s way, which can lead to pushing and therefore stress points.
Are the children given advice about safety in the classroom? Advice might itself form part of an understanding about particularly concerning moving things around, walking (and not running) about the room, and certainly when carrying scissors. Such advice could mark a useful point for discussing safety with the children more generally.
Safety should be paramount when playing on playground equipment – safety hotspots where tragic accidents have regrettably taken place. Similarly in PE the children should work safely with all equipment, especially the gym mats, which are often heavier than the children think.
Of course you will want to make sessions interesting, however in drama – or any subject that tends to be more physical – children can quickly become excitable. So whilst we want children to be active, and inspired, we need to think about the planning of such sessions carefully. Work with the space that you have available and look for activity that is controlled and will not deteriorate into children merely running around, which can cause accidents and incidents.
It’s certainly a positive move that cooking is taken much more seriously at school, which means we have a chance of turning out better cooks than myself and my generation of fellow schoolmates. Of course anything involving cooking, and heat, needs to be carefully handled. Much more consideration must also be given to allergies, with nut allergies now much more prevalent, along with intolerances to dairy, for instance. Communication with parents must be open and on-going.
Similarly with technology. Education, in general, is much more engaging and interactive than once it was. Equally, teachers will want to make their classes exciting and appealing to students. However if it comes to things like electricity or gas use, or even using glue, or sharp tools like saws or knives, children must be educated as to the dangers as soon as is possible, with dedicated safety instruction.
This, of course, is a massive subject for both primary and secondary school, now complicated by the fact that bullying can be both physical bullying, or else cyber bullying, online. Anti-bullying messages must be enforced by the teachers and the head from the very beginning of the school year, and reinforced throughout that year, with the relevant consequences meted out for those that cross the line, thereby clearly confronting bad behavior. These might be conveyed via role-play games, or mutually agreed rules of behavior, stressing the importance of mutual respect.
Again this all comes down to security. If the children feel they are entering a secure environment when they pass through the school gates, free from bullying, they will be more inclined to let down their guard and make real connections, and friendships.
9) The playground.
This is potentially, and undeniably, a more lawless environment than the classroom. And because of that, teaching staff and playground attendants need to be absolutely across what goes on during breaks, both in terms of physical and verbal behaviour. Also be minded that children react, and adapt, to how teachers respond (and sometimes, regrettably, fail to respond) to incidents in the playground. In such cases, it can feel more like a lawless wild west for a child, than a safe place to play with friends.
Some might feel that being too controlling can take all the fun out of school life. However, in teaching children about these dangers, we are teaching children important lessons in how to evaluate, and manage, risk. Recognising and accommodating danger engenders respect and is part of a child’s maturing process, towards eventual full independence.
In conclusion, the successful school environment encourages challenging learning, and play. Children can be rewarded for understanding risk; equally, children crossing the line can evidence the need for appropriate recrimination. Working towards a safer environment can thereby, in itself, be an important part of the education of a child.
At Youngstart, we put safety considerations at the forefront of every design decision we make. Our easels are the sturdiest and most dependable on the market, which is why we offer a 10 year guarantee.