Parents vow to challenge school over ‘no running’ rule

St  Bernard's Primary School has introduced a 'Walking-No Running Policy.' INNT 42-809CON
St Bernard's Primary School has introduced a 'Walking-No Running Policy.' INNT 42-809CON

A group of parents have vowed to challenge a primary school’s “unfair” ban on pupils running in the playground.

St Bernard’s Primary School in Glengormley introduced the controversial policy on Monday, October 12 in response to “a number of accidents both inside and outside of the school.” It means pupils are no longer allowed to run around before school, or at break and lunch times.

Mr Paul Flanagan, principal of St Bernard's Primary School. INNT 42-820CON

Mr Paul Flanagan, principal of St Bernard's Primary School. INNT 42-820CON

The move has divided opinion, with some parents backing school principal Paul Flanagan, while others have called for the new rule to be scrapped.

One disgruntled parent contacted the Times on Monday afternoon to express her anger after her children had been “pulled out” for breaking the no-running rule on the first day of its implementation.

“My children have come home today with their faces tripping them,” she said. “As parents we weren’t consulted. The first we heard about it was when the letter was sent last week. By that time the rule was already coming into effect.

“I have spoken to a number of parents today, and everyone is outraged. There was nothing for the children to do when they were on their breaks today. We’ll be wanting to meet with Mr Flanagan to get it sorted. It’s unfair that the children were pulled out for running in the playground.”

She added: “We’re considering starting a petition to show our disgust. Hopefully the decision will be reversed.”

Supporting the school’s decision, one parent who wished to remain anonymous contacted the Times to express her relief that the policy had been introduced.

“The move doesn’t seem to be popular, but I’m glad it’s been introduced. My daughter goes to St Bernard’s and was involved in an accident in the playground last year. Another pupil ran into her and knocked her over. She wasn’t seriously injured but was still sore at the time. Hopefully now other incidents like this won’t happen at the school,” she said.

In response to the row over the ‘Walking-No Running Policy’, Mr Flanagan sent another letter to parents this week clarifying the reasons for the decision to ban running in the playground.

He claimed the increase in pupil numbers at the school over the past five years has put “considerable pressure on playground space.”

Mr Flanagan said there have been “a number of quite serious accidents in the playground in the last few years”, mainly caused by “children racing at full speed, not looking where they are going and colliding with other children.”

He stressed that the new policy had been put in place to prevent further accidents in the Y3-Y7 playground, and that it doesn’t apply in the Y1-Y2 playgrounds or supervised PE lessons.

“It is a means of slowing children down rather than darting around and causing injury to other children. We understand that many schools operate this policy effectively. Nobody wants a child ending up in hospital. We also don’t want to wrap them in cotton wool,” the letter states.

Mr Flanagan said the school plans to pilot the new rule for the remainder of the term.

Despite the headmaster’s attempt to assuage parents’ concerns about the new rule, some remain extremely unhappy with the situation at the school.

“This has caused outrage amongst parents on social media and within the community,” one mother told the Times. “There are many reasons why we are outraged. We were not asked our opinion on this matter. Our children are very upset. If they run they are stood out.

“The school shouldn’t have increased numbers of pupils if it couldn’t accommodate them, and they shouldn’t be building more classrooms if there isn’t enough play space for the children.”

The woman, who didn’t want to be named, said parents are hoping to meet with Mr Flanagan to ask for clarification about the numbers and types of accidents that led to the school carrying out a risk assessment, and why parents of P1 and P2 pupils were given the original letter detailing the running ban.

She said parents’ concerns about the new policy have also been raised with the school’s Parent Teacher Association and board of governors.

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