Heavy Bags Wake Up Call

If any of us adults deliberately and consciously inflicted hurt and harm on the physical body of a child that would cause them injury that impacted them permanently, that would be a criminal act, wouldn’t it?

So, we must ask ourselves the question as to how we have gone for so many years bemoaning the weight of children’s school bags, yet have really done so little about the issue? Do we need to acknowledge that in the face of overwhelming evidence to continue to permit this to go on would be a wilful act on our part? Doesn’t it bring in to question everything that we profess regarding our desire for the holistic development of children?

So, what is that evidence and how solid is it? Here’s a great article from Mic.com that shares hard scientific evidence about what’s going on, how the heavy bag impacts the child’s body and what the long term implications are later in life. The evidence is, quite frankly, damning;

Mic.com Article – Heavy Backpacks in School Made Us Shrink

We talk of a partnership between home and school as a critical part of what we do. However, all the time these problems ensue it seems to me a reflection of fundamental failure in that partnership. There isn’t a consistent pattern across all schools or even within a school, in my experience.

Common faults with some schools can include unpredictable timetabling or frequent last minute changes that mean children have to carry all their books all the time. Also guilty are those who send large amounts of homework home, for which the children are required to carry all their books (rather than limiting to specific subjects on specific days). Then, there are those who expect the children to take everything home in a single day at the end of term/ academic year. It should always be possible to spread this process over 2-3 days so that the load to carry is reduced.

On the home front, even where schools have policies for minimal bag weight and do all in their power to prevent teachers sending large loads home, some parents will still demand that the child carries all the books home, especially at the end of a week so that they can ‘go through the books’ or instruct the child to revise and refresh their learning.

What we don’t appear to see mentioned in the research is how the backpacks are worn. All too often students get in to habits that make the issues worse. Straps are sometimes worn very loose so that the heavy pack drags the shoulders back. Sometimes for ‘coolness’ children are tempted to wear on one shoulder only.

In all these scenarios, when we see this evidence of the terrible physical harm being done to the children it ought to be possible for all parties to put the needs and interests of the child first.

Incidentally, I’m not in favour of the suggestion in the final paragraph of the article for children to use wheeled bags. Whilst the writer may figure this solves the weight issue, they ignore the other issues that arise. Firstly, children can sometimes trip each other with these bags making them quite a serious hazard. Secondly, wherever there are stairs and when mounting/ dismounting from buses the child will have to pick the heavy bag up. This entails taking the weight on one side only, often in a jerking manner which can cause worse injuries. This is especially the case as many will become careless about the weight when the bag is wheeled.

What is the use of driving the child for academic achievement (so that they can have a successful future) if the net result is physically debilitating damage and harm?

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