Show/Hide Navigation

An Open Letter to Northumberland County Council

Dear Northumberland County Council,

I am writing in response to the news that you are forbidding school children to climb a hill, “on the grounds of health and safety.”

I completely support the headteacher who has been quoted as saying that

“I despair for children who have to stay in a classroom, who are not allowed to go on a cross-country run, are not allowed to climb our local hill, are not allowed to cycle to a local beauty spot. They are being robbed of the opportunity of finding out what their limits are, of enjoyment, of excitement or just being a child.”

I appreciate that “Accidents can and do happen”. But they are rare. Far less rare, however, are overweight, over-protected children who are being massively harmed by decisions such as yours.

Children need adventure in their lives. They want adventure in their lives. Here is proof.

And, finally, here are 10 reasons to stop wrapping children in cotton wool. It shows children crossing rivers, standing close to cliffs, and smiling.

I look forward to hearing your response,
Alastair Humphreys

Read Comments

You might also like

What is Stopping us Living Adventurously? Fear? Over recent days I’ve been asking a series of questions on social media to try to figure out what is stopping people from living as adventurously as they might wish to do, and exploring whether — at its heart — […]...
How to Improve your Email Newsletter I’ve been half-heartedly sending email newsletters for 17 years. But only recently have I started to make a real effort to make them good (do you subscribe? If not, you probably should). In order to learn what my audience was […]...
Bavarian Microadventure – with a difference I was worried, eight years ago, when I first began sleeping on local hills and swimming in rivers to get my prescribed dose of adventure. I had just, barely, hardly, got to a point where I felt confident that enough […]...


  1. Fantastic!!! Aside the part with the girl and the frog ewwww!!! Lol

  2. Love it,dirty knees and the sounds of laughter,

  3. Thank You Alastair. Well put and thank god they have changed their mind for this years walk

  4. Michael Halliday Posted

    Are we not supposed to learn from risk?
    I work as a Bikeability Instructor and every child we take on a level 2 course is exposed to risk, the risk from potentially harmful traffic but we teach them how to handle that risk. They learn from that and learn how to think for themselves in many situations other than cycling.

  5. Wonderful. How great to see the children getting exercise and having fun whilst they’re learning.

  6. All children should have the opportunity to play outdoors. They should be taught in school how to behave sensibly, safely and responsibly in the outdoors. To me this is as important if not more important than good numeracy and literacy skills. Then those of us that work in the countryside might not have to deal with wildfires and angry farmers whose livelihoods may be put at risk by irresponsible behaviour. Children that hate school can also be motivated to work hard and concentrate in the classroom if they get the chance to run around in the fresh air and let off steam safely.

  7. Alastair, Its such a shame that this happens more and more and as we know, it can only be detrimental to a child’s development not to experience such adventures.. However, it is all about accountability or the covering of asses and fear of being sued if something goes wrong.
    I think the answer is for parents to start taking more control or responsibility and not leaving it to schools. It is our responsibility to educate and provide a solid environment for our kids to grow up and then survive in the world. I will freely take my daughter out of school for activities I think she will gain from.. I took her out of school for the Diamond Jubilee project I was on, she came to Oman on one of my assignments recently and will come to Alaska in January.. In school time. It will not make a dots bit of difference to her formal education but it does give her far more than if I didn’t take her. I will also quite happily speak to the school if I think they are taking my duties away from me.. I think many parents will send their children to school and then expect the school to be responsible.. They are not, we are. Hope you are well..

  8. Javier Posted
  9. I wonder what the level of qualification the council is looking for might be. I suspect that they would just need a Mountain Leader (Summer), not sure about ratios.

    The AALA discussion I imagine is a distraction, something along the lines of… no, the school is not a centre, but yes they should still have the same standard of care that a centre would if they were carrying out the same activity.

    The issue here seems to be resource. There has been a nationwide closure of council outdoor centres and reduction of available qualified outdoor staff.

    If this is a case of finding a couple of MLs who would head up to Glendale to volunteer for the day, then I suggest it’s put out to the community.

    But there is a bigger piece of work, looking at a child’s entitlement growing up in this country. I believe as I imagine many others do, that every child should have a high quality wilderness experience as part of their state-funded education and that means, us, the taxpayer deciding that we would like to fund that.

    I don’t think people want to go back to the days of under-qualified leaders or safety equipment being left in the minibus because it is to heavy.

    Sorry for being the voice of reason amongst righteous indignation, but systems and structures and policy might provide future generations with not just a removal of barriers but the provision of opportunity.

    • ps don’t mean to imply that other comments and the blog post is not reasonable, just that sometimes the boring policy side has a role alongside this appeal for common sense

    • Alastair Posted

      Hi Jamie,
      I’m somewhat playing Devil’s Advocate here, for I appreciate that policies such as ML provide a quantifiable benchmark for competence to take people into wild places.
      But on the other hand… it’s a hill! If it’s safe enough for Mr and Mrs Bloggs to saunter up with their kids on a weekend then it’s safe enough for said kids’ teacher to take them up.
      Overall I would prefer to go back to under-qualified leaders (relying instead on common sense) rather than risk a generation of fat, wimpy kids (who will turn into fat, wimpy adults)…

  10. Yes, it is just a hill. The Black Cuilins are just hills, but we know that lots of things are safe to saunter up when the sun is shining and the wind is fair. We have an arbitrary ruling that hills over 600m fall into a different category. Probably easier than doing a separate risk assessment for every hill in this country. Lots of opportunities exist to give young people a great outdoor and wilderness experience in Britain, without needing a qualified mountain instructor. If only common sense were more common, we probably wouldn’t need this debate.

  11. A number of years ago, I went on a school trip to The Netherlands. We stayed near a Blue Flag beach, so one of the teachers who organised the trip investigated the possibility of us having some time messing around on it. In order for us just to PADDLE (ankle-deep), he was told that we would need an offshore patrol boat and x number of dedicated lifeguards for the size of our party (I don’t recall the exact ratio).

    I realise the importance of health and safety regulations, especially since there are occasionally tragedies during organised excursions, even though teachers are in loco parentis (and on heightened alert as a result). However, a little common sense would go a long, LONG way.



Post a Comment

HTML tags you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

© Copyright 2012 Alastair Humphreys. All rights reserved. Site design by JSummerton