Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Conkers Head sends readers goggle-eyed

An interesting piece in the Comment is Free part of the Guardian today, as Shaun Halfpenny, head of Cummersdale Primary School in Carlisle, tells the truth about the "Schoolchildren wear goggles to play conkers" story that, frankly, spawned a monster. Mr Halfpenny, it turns out, was the man who initiated the wearing of goggles whilst playing conkers. Unfortunately, thanks to some digging by Guardian readers, developed in the comments section, it turns out that what he's actually writing is, at best, poorly remembered, and at worst an attempt to completely revise the whole history of the event.

In the Guardian piece, Mr Halfpenny says "It was a child who actually asked if they could wear goggles". This, however, is not what was reported at the time. The BBC covered the story by quoting Mr Halfpenny as saying "
I said they would have to wear goggles to play, mainly because they could get bits of conker in the eye. They thought it was a great idea."The Cumberland News also reported that "Mr Halfpenny said he had no choice because of health and safety rules...'The children asked to play conkers in school and I thought it would be really mean if I said no. These days you cannot be too careful, especially when health and safety inspectors are watching.'"

"What are they doing?" "They're playing conkers, without wearing goggles." "Fuck it, that's too dangerous. We're going in."

The BBC also quotes Mr Halfpenny as saying "It's just being sensible", to which the only correct reply is "No it fucking isn't". A few people have said to me "Oh, Health and Safety is just common sense", which is fine, until you spend 30 seconds thinking of some of the idiotic things your workmates do, and then realise that you may have to rely on their "common sense".

The thing that really baffles me about this Guardian piece though is that after having kids wear goggles, Mr Halfpenny then went to the media and told them about it. The "Health and Safety has gone completely over the top" attitude was well underway by then, as shown by this article by Jeremy Clarkson. How the Head didn't realise that the story was going to run and run is frankly, remarkable. It seems in this case, the Head didn't use his, well, head.

1 comment:

  1. Great blog post Roach, inspired me to write one!