Even with shrapnel, Israeli kids are freer

By Jonathan Kalmus, November 4, 2010

Israeli schoolchildren, even those on the war-blighted Lebanese border, have greater freedom to learn through exploration and play than their "over risk-assessed" British counterparts, according to a Jewish primary school headteacher.

Leeds Brodetsky Primary School head Jeremy Dunford, returning from his first visit to Israel, said he had found that Israeli pupils were able to use school equipment with far less adult supervision, and greater success, while British children were less likely to learn how to cope with risk as a result of strict UK health and safety laws.

One of the schools Mr Dunford visited on a UJIA-organised trip last week for senior Jewish educators was Ben Zvi Primary School in Shlomi.

It lies around a mile from the Lebanese border, and its headteacher keeps Hizbollah rocket shrapnel on his desk to remind him of attacks.

"The emphasis on health and safety was positively freer, with more access to the outdoors, more use of equipment. Kids in UK have an overly risk-assessed life. Children need a chance to learn to take risks. The Israeli children I saw using equipment in an outdoor play session could explore the equipment more, and I didn't see one banged head," said Mr Dunford.

He also observed that the lack of football in the playground meant children played more collaborative games.

"A Hizbollah outpost overlooked the school until a few weeks ago, and the school has its own bomb shelter.
If you were not told this, you would have
no idea."

Mr Dunford, 42, who is not Jewish and who was appointed as head of Brodetsky in January this year, is now working to secure a two-way learning partnership with the Hemed Primary School, around 18 miles from Shlomi, after seeing education methods that were more advanced than those employed in UK.

They included personal mentoring for pupils and the opportunity to study specialist science, art and music for older primary schoolchildren.

Mr Dunford said his teachers would be sent on delegations to the school and video-conferencing between pupils would also help to bring new skills to the UK.

Last updated: 9:18am, November 5 2010