a. A survey has suggested that traditional pastimes are increasingly being banned at break times in primary schools. Number one on the list is chasing game British Bulldog, followed by leapfrog and conkers.
b. Despite its name, British Bulldog is a game that does not involve animals, and is played all over the world in a number of variations. In its basic form it involves runners trying to get to the other side of the playground without being caught by the chaser, the 'bulldog'. If caught, they become a bulldog too, until there is only one person left: the winner of the game. 'Conkers' on the other hand, is genuinely British, as it is a game that was invented in England.
The players bring their own 'conker': a horse chestnut attached to a thick piece of string that goes through the middle of the nut and is knotted underneath. Players pair up, wrap the string around one of their hands and try up to three times to hit the other person's conker by swinging their hand back and forth. They take this in turns until one of the conkers is destroyed. That could be the end of the game, or the winner could go on to 'fight' others. There are different types of scoring methods in place. The game is also played outside the school playground, with a world championship taking place in England every year.
c. It will come as no surprise that people have had accidents resulting in a broken arm or leg while playing British Bulldog, or by simply walking across the playground when a game is taking place! It is also not difficult to imagine that many conker players manage to hit their opponent's hand rather than their conker. Horse chestnuts are very hard and being hit with one hurts, as many school children will - proudly - tell you.
d. This whole situation is not new. In the past, we have also heard stories about the banning of kiss chase and of musical chairs. There is also anecdotal evidence that some schools ban marbles, and even hopscotch, duck-duck-goose and skipping. The main reason for forbidding these games is again fear of injury. Sometimes the justifications are stranger and perhaps not actually true. For example, kiss chase, a chase game where the person who has been caught receives a kiss before becoming the chaser, may pass on germs. And conkers might also be a problem for children with nut allergies.
e. Sporting activities are also becoming rarer on the playground, often because there is a lack of staff available to supervise them. Apart from banning these, there are also more original solutions, such as allowing students to play touch rugby only - a form of rugby where tackles are not allowed, and playing football with a soft ball rather than the traditional leather one. Having said that, these activities are often not popular with the kids, and this may discourage them from playing at all.
f. Your comments:
This is just ridiculous! Illnesses and injuries are part of growing up! Sean, Watford
I used to play all these games and more. I think I split my lip once when I fell over during a circle game, but so what? It can't compete with the hours of fun I had with my friends. Susan, Bournemouth
I don't think it's wrong to question whether we should allow violent games in schools. After all, violence should not be tolerated in an educational environment. Perhaps this is something that could lead to healthy group discussions involving teachers and pupils about rules and behaviour, but in my opinion this should not result in a ban of healthy running games such as circle, tag or chase games. Otherwise all P.E. and sports activities should also be banned on health and safety grounds, which would be mad: it's just not necessary to do any of this. Kiran, Cardiff
Let's ban active playground activities. Let's keep the kids inside the classrooms during break times and pay extra staff to stay indoors to supervise them and keep them safe. Let's watch them become very fat and very boring adults! A. Watson, Sheffield
Allowing children to play games that involve the occasional risk, such as British Bulldog, teaches them to make intelligent decisions about their safety. Mohammed, Scotland
I blame lawyers and society: we always feel somebody should be to blame if anything goes wrong, so we can sue them for a lot of money. Alison, London