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Danger! Risk! Adventure!

26/06/2009

Understanding our perception of risk is key to understanding how we take risks. Learning to negotiate risk is an essential part of what make a child into a nuanced adult. Without this, we remain naive and infantile.
Following the Lyme Bay tragedy, public service managers risk assessed anything that moved. They desperately want to avoid harm to those in their care and, yes, they also want to avoid negligence claims and ruined careers.
Risk assessments are useful. The disastrous storage of Trichloroethylene in an unlabelled drinks container and the explosion caused by a fag butt thrown into an ’empty’ petrol storage tank are things of the past because we have learned from mistakes and improved our practice.
But this is not the same thing as risk-taking.
Adolescent risk taking is only different from the adult variety (…that extra glass…?) in that it is essential. If we don’t take risks – whether in life or in love – we don’t become adults. Without risk, the world is a grey, grey place.
Adventure (as this used to called) is a vital part of growing-up. Those working in education and childcare need to remember that we show our caring professionalism not just by filling in forms but also by ensuring that a sense of excitement is there in chidlren’s activities without them ever being put at risk!

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