Principals wrong on playground panic - Woodhouse

Principals wrong on playground panic - Woodhouse

Principals have misunderstood proposed changes to health and safety laws which they fear could sting them with huge fines for injuries on playgrounds, the minister in charge says.

School principals say they'll have to carefully scrutinise sport, camps and outside education under the planned health and safety laws.

They say the Health and Safety Reform Bill - likely to be passed into law tomorrow - singles out principals, who'll face potential liability of up to $600,000 or five years in prison if things go wrong at school.

Secondary Principals' Association Spokesman Patrick Walsh says they won't be able to insure against those fines.

"If you look at bullrush, that's an unsupervised activity, involves physical contact, there are often injuries related to those so if it goes wrong, potentially, people could be looking at liability," he says.

Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins says their concerns show how bad the proposed reforms are.

"Schools have been left completely in the dark about the implications of the new law and that’s clearly leading to knee-jerk reactions and panic.

"No school would deliberately put a student at risk. They want to comply with the new law, and they want to keep providing kids with opportunities outside the classroom, but the Government’s failure to provide proactive advice and support is putting that all at risk," Mr Hipkins says.

All Kiwi kids have fond memories of school camps, field trips and days out and it would be a "terrible waste" if those stopped under the legislation.

But Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse says they're wrong in their interpretation of what the law would mean.

"I think there's been a bit of a revelation in that process that principals have some obligations under current law, some of them may not have been aware of that. I don't think anyone who has got good health and safety practices as school has anything to worry about."

Schools ripping out their playgrounds would be a "gross overreaction".

Nothing in the new legislation would affect schools running camps, he said.

3 News / RadioLIVE