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Conkers back on the agenda at Norwich school

Children enjoying games of conkers at  Catton Grove Primary School. From left,  Jade Symmons, 9; Mya Hopkins, 9; Adam Keeler, 10; and Josh Wheeler, 9. Picture: Denise Bradley

Children enjoying games of conkers at Catton Grove Primary School. From left, Jade Symmons, 9; Mya Hopkins, 9; Adam Keeler, 10; and Josh Wheeler, 9. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant copyright 2011

Crazy health and safety protocol once dubbed playing conkers too dangerous for schoolchildren – but the traditional game is back on the curriculum at one Norwich school.

Catton Grove Primary School in Weston Road has been hosting a conkers competition and the children are loving the event.

Headteacher Tim Lawes said the competition was a chance to show that traditional games still had a place in the playground.

He said: “Conkers have always been a traditional playground game.

“We want to give kids the opportunity to play conkers in the playground without going through the health and safety route where you need to wear glasses, goggles, kneepads or other stuff.

“It’s just a bit of fun and part of tradition. If you wrap the children up in cotton wool they will never appreciate risk.”

The school’s conkers teacher Doug Simpson came up with the idea after his class told him they had never played the game. He said: “The children love it. I remember when I was at school in London, everyone had a conker. You used to carry them on a string and get a conker with high numbers, which meant that it had beaten loads of other conkers.

“But when I started the conkers competition here none of my class had ever played it, although they did collect them, so I thought I had to remedy this.”

Children taking part in the competition yesterday seemed to be having a great time.

Jade Symmons , nine, said: “I love it. It can be dangerous, and I got rapped on the knuckles the other day, but I’m not too fussed about getting hurt. I’m a tough cookie.”

The furore over conkers started several years ago when a school in Cumbria insisted that pupils wear goggles to take on their opponents. This led to other schools around the country imposing conker bans on health and safety grounds.

In 2001, councillors from Norwich actually cut down several ancient horse chestnuts so that children throwing sticks into the branches would not injure themselves from the falling debris.

Meanwhile, this year’s World Conker Championship has been cancelled because setting up the event would “simply be too dangerous”, organisers said.

The annual competition was due to go ahead tomorrow but will not take place this year because recent high winds have made it impossible to set up the playing area and marquees. The event usually takes place on the second Sunday in October at New Lodge Fields in Oundle, Northamptonshire, and has been running since 1965.

What traditional playground
game would you like to see
make a comeback? Email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk.

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