School 'Bans Pupils From Hugging'
Friday, 29th June 2007, 00:55
A school has banned pupils from hugging - in case it leads to sexual activity.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, principal of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, east London, for boys and girls aged from 11 to 14, imposed a ban on cuddling and touching amid fears it could encourage "inappropriate" behaviour.
All kids caught breaking the new rule and hugging a fellow pupil of either sex are to be given detentions.
The Hackney branch of the National Union of Teachers rubbished the idea, saying it was "silly" and "militaristic".
Spokesman Mark Lushington added that the rule would make teachers feel "very uncomfortable".
He quipped: "There are very few places in Hackney where people say 'don't go there - you will get hugged'. I'd rather kids in Hackney were huggers than muggers.
"I don't know where they got the idea from. The idea that you can legislate for this I find very inappropriate. It's very militaristic and it's symptomatic of an addiction to policing. There really needs to be more common sense in dealing with these kinds of things.
"Supposing somebody's mum has just died I think it's natural that you put your arm round them.
"I taught in a secondary school for 16 years and I've seen various different attempts to legislate to the smallest detail like this one, however this is just silly.
Mr Lushington said many academies had gone over the top on discipline - seeing it as a "selling point" to parents.
And he added: "I think having to put kids in detention for this will make teachers feel very uncomfortable. Teachers need to be able to react to situations that might be deemed inappropriate according to the exact situation, not just to say 'you're in detention'."
No-one from the school would comment about the matter.
However, explaining the ban, Sir Michael told a local newspaper his decision was not based on any serious incident at the school.
He said: "We don't want any accusations in the future of people touching each other inappropriately.
"We believe that contact between students should be formal contact, and hugging in the playground could lead to serious accusations being made.
"There's nothing wrong with youngsters linking arms or shaking hands with each other, but what we don't want is overt kinds of affection that could be seen as inappropriate behaviour.
"We are running a well-ordered institution and we want the children to conduct themselves properly."
Despite Mr Lushington's reservations, one grandmother of a Year 7 pupil at Mossbourne, Sheila O'Connell, backed the ban.
She said: "At their age teenagers don't even want their parents hugging them, so this is probably a good idea."
Another parent Shahid Hussain said: "I've heard about the new rule and I agree with it.
"There are a lot of things that pupils can avoid by not hugging because it could lead to more serious things.
"I support the idea because I don't want my kids to have any distractions. The reason they are at school in the first place is to learn and get a good job and have a good future."
Mossbourne, which opened in 2004, was Hackney's first academy school