Monday, November 14, 2005

Schools as prisons

On my walk to work, I pass two schools, both of which are for under-11s (not sure if they're primary, infants or juniors). One of them has its playground adjacent to the footpath/cycleway. Up until a week or so ago, the playground used to be surrounded by a steel galvanised palisade fence. Okay, so probably it's to stop vandalism - the area isn't entirely free from grafitti, broken windows and the like - but a six-foot steel fence seems a bit over-the-top. No-one seems to have tried to damage the fence or spray paint all over it, though.

Now, however, there has been a second fence, a wooden one, erected within the boundary of the steel fence. Tell me what this is for? The school is looking increasingly like a prison (I'm reminded of dialogue in "Out of Sight" before the attempted jail break), and I wonder whether it's to keep the kids in, or others unspecified, out. I attended a junior school in Chelmsford for about a term which was partly surrounded by a brick wall at least twenty feet high (that's how high it felt when I was seven, anyway), but it was next door to Chelmsford Prison; my primary school had only a chainlink fence around it. I don't know why it's felt necessary to have two fences, but it seems that it can't be just to protect the school from vandals: that's what the palisade fence is for. So it's to stop people looking in, presumably.

While I strongly agree that we have to protect children against those who would harm them, there are surely better ways to do so than by turning their school into a prison yard. Okay, so I'm not a parent, or perhaps I would be singing a different tune, but it does seem ridiculous that children are becoming so coddled and over-protected from possible harm. As I see it, the best protection a child can have is by being with a bunch of other children, their friends, and not by being carefully driven around in lonely state by Mum or Dad.

The other school, by the way, has not proceeded to such extremes - they have a chainlink fence around their playground, and that seems enough.


At Tue Nov 15, 07:34:00 pm, Anonymous sarahvic said...

I live next to a primary school and that is locked up tighter than fort knox...apart from the fact that they gave me the code for one of the doors after I went to pick up my shoe that I managed to kick over the fence!


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