Primary School Head Faces Backlash After Banning Games of Tag, Introducing ‘Gentle Hands’ Playground Policy

November 11, 2019 Updated: November 11, 2019

A British primary school headteacher has come under fire for banning pupils from playing games of “tag” at school under a “gentle hands” playground policy.

Joanne Smith, principal of Rudyard Kipling Primary School in Brighton, England, introduced the policy which also bans children from playing any games that are “physical” over safety concerns.

The school’s head said she made the decision because she felt traditional games such as “British bulldog” and “tag” had “escalated” and were making children upset.

The game of tag involves two or more players chasing each other to “tag” them. The person tagged then becomes “it” for the next round, and does the chasing.

Smith instead has encouraged pupils to hold hands or play clapping games in the playground or play with “gentle hands,” the Telegraph reported.

She wrote to parents: “To clarify, ‘gentle hands’ does not mean ‘no touching.’ The children are, of course, allowed to hold hands or play clapping games with a friend should they wish to.

“Gentle Hands simply means playing games outside that do not need to be physical.”

The teacher added that the move will ensure the school playground is a “happy, safe and calm place” where all pupils can enjoy their lunchtime “running around and getting the exercise we know is important to them.”

The policy has angered parents, and some have lashed out asking for the decision to be rescinded as their children are left feeling bored during their breaks.

“Sometimes, I don’t even know what planet Brighton is on,” a mother of a 10-year-old at Rudyard Kipling Primary School told the Telegraph.

“They’re banning children from playing tag—why on earth would anyone thing (sic) tag is a bad thing? I’m going to teach my son about another game instead, that’ll really scare the snowflake headteacher—kiss-chase.”

Another parent told The Times of London the policy is a step too far: “The game is played everywhere, it doesn’t need any instructions, it is naturally instinctive for children to play. The school has gone about this completely the wrong way.”

Meanwhile, one parent said the traditional playground games are “essential life skills” which help children learn to interact with each other.

“Children need opportunities to get upset with each other and work it out. These are essential life skills,” the parent said.

The school, which received a “good” rating during its last Ofsted inspection, has reportedly faced several incidents recently involving rough play fighting in the playground, a spokesman said.

“With the full support of our staff and our Parents Teachers and Friends Association, we have reminded the children of our ‘Gentle Hands’ rule during break and lunchtimes,” the spokesman said.

“We have shown the children a number of new games they can play. The children are already having lots of fun playing these new games. The children are, of course, allowed to hold hands and play their own games.”