11 year old Anna does a cartwheel
11 year old Anna does a cartwheel Warren Lynam

Kiwi principal says kids can excel without bubble-wrap

A NEW Zealand school principal has extended an invitation to Peregian Springs State School to see how children can excel without being wrapped in cotton wool.

Swanson Primary head Bruce McLachlan has made headlines across the world after he threw the rulebook out at his Auckland primary school three years ago.

The 500 students are allowed to climb trees, ride their bikes or skateboards on the school ground and they are definitely allowed to do handstands and cartwheels.

RELATED: Your Say: Cartwheel ban creating 'bubble-wrap kids'

Mr McLachlan said he couldn't comment on Peregian Springs principal Gwen Sands' decision to rule that "under no circumstances" can handstands and cartwheels be done at school unless under direct supervision and on a school mat.

However, he said Ms Sands, and any teacher, was welcome to come and look at how not having strict schoolyard rules had reduced bullying and increased children's wellbeing.

"I don't set out to be an expert, but I know what has been done here and how successful it has been," he said.

"We don't have rules, our kids are happy, creative and active, who by in large don't tend to get hurt."

Premier Campbell Newman and Local Government Minister David Crisafulli have both suggested they support kids being kids.

But Education Minister JP Langbroek said yesterday it was "important that students have the freedom to play and be active outdoors in a safe environment".

"We leave decisions about student safety up to individual school communities and principals," he said.

Mr McLachlan said he decided three years ago, after being in education for more than 30 years and a principal for 10, that it was time to give children more freedom.

"Kids became independent, creative, their communication improved, academic results improved, bullying decreases, there were less conflicts, the whole thing was such a huge success."

He said New Zealand didn't have a culture of litigation, so changes were easier to implement at other places.

But he believed ditching the rules could work anywhere, including in Australia.

"What we have here is pretty special, but it is not rocket science. It is the way kids used to play in the '60s and '70s."



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