Parents were today furious after a school banned leather footballs in the playground – and replaced them with SPONGE ones to prevent injury.
The junior school’s head teacher has banned old-fashioned footballs – booted around by youngsters for generations – in response to ”a number of accidents”.
She ruled that pupils could only use lighter sponge footballs – claiming the school is following strict new health and safety guidelines.
But the decision has been branded ”ridiculous” by parents and council education chiefs have distanced themselves from the ban.
One outraged mother, who takes her son to Harewood Junior School, in Tuffley, Glos., said yesterday (Thurs): ”They might as well keep them in straight jackets.
”They ban children from so many things these days because of health and safety.
”My son is in the football team at school and he needs to practice but these sponge balls aren’t going to help. It is silly.”
The new ruling was spelled out in the Harewood Junior School’s newsletter for the new term by head teacher Andrea Mills.
She ordered that old-fashioned leather and newer synthetic footballs be banned after accidents involving pupils.
Mrs Mills said: ”I have purchased some sponge footballs for each year group so that the children can still play their favourite games and am happy for them to bring in something similar if they wish.
”We will still be using the correct size leather balls for football club and specific PE lessons.”
But parents attacked the decision when they arrived at the school gates today.
Kirstie Davis, whose son Harvey James goes to the school, branded it ”ridiculous”.
She said: ”People have been doing it for years and they have never had any fatal accidents because of a leather football.
”I think it is quite stupid.”
The father of a six-year-old boy at the school said: ”My lad wants to play football and he won’t learn properly if he’s not kicking a proper football. It’s a step too far.
”We were allowed to use a football at school and we were always careful. This is health and safety being stupid.
”My lad will suffer because of this. He’s a bright little player even at his age and he should be learning what he needs to with a proper ball.”
A mum, who has two children at the school and also wished to remain anonymous, added: ”There’s more important issues at the school than rules like this.
”They should be able to kick about the ball they want to. A sponge one gets wet after it rains and they won’t be able to play properly.
”It won’t bounce.”
Mrs Mills insists she still wants children to play football but wants everyone to be safe in the playground.
Speaking from the school yesterday, she said: ”It was a decision that we reached with the children and the staff.
”There were a number of incidents where someone kicked the ball, not intentionally to hurt someone, but ended up hurting someone else.
”But children love football and we didn’t want to stop them and we decided the best way was to have sponge balls as a substitute because they can’t hurt people.
”Children can still play football but if the ball hit someone it wouldn’t hurt them.
”It is all really about having children able to play at lunchtime and playtimes, where it is a bit freer play, but while keeping everyone safe.”
But Nick Seaton, from the Campaign for Real Education, claimed it was implausible to try and remove all risk from children’s lives.
He said: ”It is ridiculous – health and safety gone mad.
”It is also politically correct, wanting to remove all possibilities of risk from children. Life is not like that.
”By protecting children to that degree, they grow up with no sense of danger.
”Leather footballs have been used for hundreds of years. Sponge balls do not behave like leather balls either – so it is not going to help young footballers.”
Harewood Junior School, on the outskirts of Gloucester, caters for around 300 pupils aged from seven to 11.
Gloucestershire County Council denies her claims that using soft balls is now a blanket policy.