OTHER Outrage of the Day: School Cancels Some Recess Because It’s Noisy

Hi Readers! Here’s the latest nonsense (and it was reported by the BBC, not The Daily Mail): A grammar school in England decided to cut back on recess when neighbors complained it was too loud.

Why not cut back on, say, responding to outlandish complaints? Or on letting lawyers decide what to eviscerate fun from the school day? But no: The decision was made to take it out on the kids. After all, they don’t really have to run around, do they? It’s not like they’re primates or anything… — Lenore

65 Responses

  1. What’s with the dig at attorneys? Your story doesn’t suggest that attorneys were involved in this story in any way.

  2. This may be something of a cultural difference. I was listening to an oral history from Australia last week and the subject of the interview was reminiscing about a time early in her teaching career. The nuns at the school at which she taught required their students to play quietly, if not silently, during P.E. and recess.

    Now, that could have been because it was an all girls’ school and excessive noise wasn’t thought to be lady-like. It may have been a kind of restraint that the nuns required just because they were nuns. Or it could have been a cultural thing, that whole “seen and not heard” kind of thing.

    I’d be curious to get input from the UK folks to see if I’m anywhere near the mark. 🙂

  3. It’s a primary school (i.e. ages 5 – 11) not a grammar school. And it’s not about being sued by lawyers for lots of money – it’s about *possibly* being served with an abatement notice by the council. And while the council will have lawyers working for them, the people primarily involved will be qualified in town planning and environmental health type issues.

    I not sure why the school is taking preemptive action instead of letting the council investigate and at least seeing if there is a requirement that they do something. Maybe they think this is them being good neighbors.

    I am very disappointed the school is cutting down on recess – kids running around for 20 minutes at a time in the middle of the day during the week should not be considered inappropriate no matter how many there are.

  4. @helenquine: In the U.S. a primary school is called a grammar school.

  5. Joette – Thanks. I never realized that!

  6. I just found out that our HS Marching Band has gotten in trouble for ‘noise’ during late night practices. Apparently there are people who live right next to the HS who complain. Get a life! These are the best kids! They are usually doing more for community, school, and themselves than the average student. I take that back, any HS student who is actively involved in after school activites should be commended NOT scolded!

  7. Did these people move into the neighborhood AFTER the school was built? If so, isn’t that a bit like buying a house next to a fire station and then complaining about the sirens?

  8. The school should at least allow indoor recess in the gym or something, if they’re going to stick with this.

  9. @VinceL: Having been in a marching band, we’d never have done late night practices just because it is too much noise. That I don’t see as good at all – evening is one thing, late night? Nope. That just makes the school look like a bad neighbor.

    For these kids, during the day… there’s no way recess should be cut out. I’m telling you – we’re well on our way to exterminating ourselves as a human race. *sigh*

  10. Bizarre – like lets just get rid of all the noisy kids they are such a noisy bother!!! One has to wonder if these complainants weren’t children once!!! And who do they think is going to support them in their old age… maybe some silent robots…

  11. @Neener, I wondered the same thing. Even if the school was built after, it’s not like the “noise” is in the middle of the night or even all day. Being a good neighbor works both ways.

    Stories like this just make me shake my head. Some people are so intent on controlling all aspects of their environment that they lose all common sense or perspective.

    And some people just need something to bitch about.

  12. Is this school in a retirement community or next to a hospice or something? Because really there should not be an abundance of people home during the school day to even hear the noise, let alone complain about it.

  13. @Donna: That’s one of the things that made me wonder if it wasn’t a generational/culture thing. If the complaints are being made by retirees who are at home all day, they may have gone to school in a time when children were expected to play quietly at school.

  14. I taught in the UK for nearly 10 years, and there is no cultural expectation of quiet playtimes! Both of the schools I taught at had “comments” from neighbors at one time or another about noise. But, as the noise was within reasonable limits for playing children (they weren’t setting off canons or anything…) and the school was there first, there was none of this nonsense. I like the analogy of buying a house next to a fire station – perfect!

  15. Joyful laughter and pitter patter of tiny feet MUST GO! I can hardly hear myself complaining and bellyaching over here, or watching the latest bad news on the telly.

  16. When my kids were in elementary school (grammar or primary), the principal used to take away recess if they were too noisy in the lunchroom and make them sit in the gym doing nothing. I complained several times that maybe they needed to run off steam but nothing happened. (Of course, I had MANY other issues with that principal and was never so happy as the day we moved out of that district)

  17. > there should not be an abundance of people home during the school day to even hear the noise, let alone complain about it

    Look here missy, I’ve been on the dole my whole life and I ain’t about to get a job now just because some kids across the street won’t pipe down! If those kids can’t be made quiet, someone needs to look into some Ritalin or some such to calm them down, and get me some while you’re at it, it’s good for freebasing.

  18. Here’s what gets me: how come there isn’t this sort of quick response when someone, rightly, complains about a noisy barking dog?

    I’ve seen situations where a person complained about a neighbor’s noisy barking dog and nothing was done about it–the accuser was basically told “that’s what dogs do, you’ll have to learn to live with it.” Oh, but when a child plays outdoors, we aren’t told “that’s what children do.”

    Thus–a dog’s right to bark is considered more fundamental than a child’s right to play. Typical of the extreme animal lovers.

  19. Hmmm. I always thought the sound of children playing was one of the loveliest sounds that we humans make. The sounds of recess are kids at their most expressive– freed from “indoor voices” and controlled “appropriate” indoor movements. Its very frustrating that a neighborhood community and a group of educators don’t understand this.

    I am currently in post-production for a webTV series for kids called Recess Stories. I have logged a lot of time talking with kids about life on the playground and it is one of the most important times of their day. There is no good reason to deny them free play time, especially not a cranky neighbor!

  20. With so many people opting out of parenting, we tend to forget that children *are* loud. It used to be viewed as a sign of vitality. Now it’s inconvenience.

  21. Even though my daughter’s new school, she just started kindergarten, is next to an acre of park, with two large play sets, tennis courts, basket ball hoops, a baseball diamond, and lots of lovely green grass, the kids, for lunch time, play in the parking lot adjacent to the school building. We are in the sixth week of school, and FINALLY, one day a week, they can play on the grass. But not mixed sexes. One day is the boys, another day is the girls.

    Wacked!

  22. I grew up within hearing distance of the local high school, and we could definitely hear the band practicing at night. No problem.

    I now live approximately 200 ft from the local elementary school, and my favorite nights are when I can hear the boy scout troop meetings (every Tuesday) and other school events.

    How sad is it when the wonderful sound of children playing is considered some kind of auditory pollution? If you can’t enjoy the sound of children playing, then you have no soul (apologies to Feynman for that paraphrase).

  23. Wow. If you don’t want to be bothered by noisy children at play periodically during the day, move to the middle of nowhere. You don’t chose a school as your neighbor. Personally, I was excited to live so close to the school that I could hear the kids playing during recess. It wasn’t excessive and if it had been during rush hour, I doubt I’d have heard them. It’s sad the school decided to cancel recess because of a couple busy bodies. They should fight for the kids’ right to play. They study hard, they should be able to play hard too.

  24. My school confiscated the rubber balls at recess because (AACK!) the kids were playing dodgeball with them. Recess is not what it used to be!

  25. So many of these issues seem to crop up from people who are my age, and parents.

    I am not, but I live near an elementary school. One of the BEST sounds is the sound of the kids at lunch and recess.

    Since when did society become SO anti child? I don’t expect the world to cave to my demands if I have a kid, or the world to revolve around my theoretical child but I do expect there to be a place for them to learn, and play and interact and find their place in society throughout their life.

    The kids in my complex know me and my dog, and I quite like their exuberance, even if it does get loud. That’s what kids DO.

  26. About the ONLY reason I can think of for someone to complain is because they work third shift, and most third shifters I know just try and block the sounds out the best they can. They know the rest of the world is awake during the day. I live near a Catholic grade school, and today I was just thinking what a NICE sound it was hearing the children play. I’m in a bagpipe band, and we rehearse at said grade school, and when it’s nice out, we get no complaints, but practice no later than 9 PM. So, I think that if the HS band was practicing past 9, then yes, they should be better neighbors. If it was like the dinner hour and someone complained? Lame…. you knew you bought a house in a district with a HS.

  27. Unfortunately, Germany is really good about closing down daycares because they are too noisy! Reason: noise ordinances of cities. And this is in a country that has both lack of children and lack of childcare. A connection here? People are not used to children anymore and those left should be better seen than heard…

  28. A Scientific American Mind piece offers these points:

    1)Students who are fit—based on their high aerobic capacity and low body fat—also tend to perform well in school and on standardized tests.

    2)In addition to regular exercise, brief periods of movement such as jumping or stretching can help improve children’s concentration.

    3)Exercise may turbocharge the brain by raising levels of neuronal growth factors, which foster the formation of new connections between brain cells.

    Article location: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=smart-jocks

  29. Lenore, why not try focusing on issues here in the US and not overseas????

  30. I replied earlier, but I will contribute again.

    I actually somewhat sympathize with the plight of people who find a certain noise objectionable & don’t want to hear it on their property. I can tell you that I once lived in an apartment complex years ago, when I was single & child-free and proud of it, and that complex let all the children–masses of them–run around all over the place loose & noisy, even at night-time. It was so bad I could be indoors watching a movie & could barely hear it even wide-open. This is INSIDE my house, with my doors CLOSED. That was just ridiculous.

    I moved to the boonies & one of the main reasons for it–I don’t want to hear any noise around me, at all, ever. Period. Typically I only hear the crickets & frogs of the woods at night-time, and that is ALL I want to hear.

    However, what I said earlier also applies–in some situations, you could have a neighbor with a noisy barking dog & the noise ordinance people actually not help you any at all, you would be told to live with it. So it sure seems quite weird to me that they would so quickly & decisively respond to the noise of children playing at recess. At least the children will only be noisy during that 20 minute period, then it’s over. A noisy barking dog can be noisy anytime–and given that it’s a dog vs a human, I don’t assign it the same level of importance and/or having as much of a right to be rowdy.

    And yes, also–if you move next-door to a school, you should know that occasional noise via recess, sports games etc are all possibilities. Reminds me of the people in my old area whom I heard about who chose to buy a house located immediately next-door to a shopping center & then complain about mall traffic. At some point home owners & renters need to choose a proper area first, it seems.

  31. That school looks to be at least 20 years old. Granted some of the homeowners might have been in their homes more than 20 years, but they also have had 20 years to move out if they didn’t like it. Maybe that’s not “fair,” but it’s not exactly fair to ask a school not to fulfill one of its normal functions if you’ve managed to put up with it for 20 years. And recess should be considered a normal function of a school, not something they can eliminate for someone else’s convenience. Or excessive intolerant fastidiousness.

    As for anyone who bought their homes knowing there was a school there, not only should they not be listened to, they should be fined for excessive public stupidity and wasting the taxpayers’ money with their stupid complaints. (Not really, I believe in the right to petition for redress of grievances, but the council ought to have enough sense to tell them their grievance is rot.)

  32. “At some point home owners & renters need to choose a proper area first, it seems.”

    In fairness, not everyone can choose to live exactly where they want to. But in those cases, that’s a problem of life not always being the way you want it, not a problem with a school. Schools are SUPPOSED TO have kids outside being noisy at recess. It’s like complaining the parking lot has “too many cars” in it.

    I used to live on a really busy street, and yeah, I complained about the traffic. It was the home we could afford to buy at the time. I complained, because it was annoying to have all that traffic, but NOT because I thought something should be “done about it.” The third busiest street in the city is SUPPOSED TO have a lot of traffic on it.

  33. Oh, that’s just ridiculous! Seriously…poor kids. They NEED to burn off that energy, it’s good for the body and the brain.

  34. I took a look at the school on Google maps and I wonder about those school governors. The school has a triangular hard yard that’s bordered by the school and what looks to be the soundproof fence. The fence backs onto a row of small detached houses with small gardens. But round the corner they have a hard five-a-side pitch and big grassy area that’s bordered by big roads and fields.

    Maybe they’ve have tried, but the governors and school leadership seem to be somewhat lacking in creativity.

  35. You know, the child of the family whose house I share is sometimes *very* noisy when she plays. Really, the squealing six-year-old noises she makes are very grating on my ears, and sometimes it’s very distracting from all of the studying I should be doing.

    So I, you know, put on headphones. Or turn up the TV. Or take my books out for a walk, find a nice park somewhere. Or, if none of these options are available, I grin and bear it, and hope that she at least stops squealing soon (the playing I can deal with, it’s the squealing…)

    What kind of grouches want to cancel recess?

  36. I’d love to hear about a school that stood up for something wholesome — like children playing outside during recess. I wonder what it says about our society when you can find so many silly and appalling-but-true news stories about public schools?

    The schools, and our society, fall all over themselves NOT to offend the few, but don’t mind in the least offending the majority!

  37. Oh, did you see my post about this over in the other item about cancelling recess – https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/2010/09/09/help-this-mom-save-recess/#comments ?

    It seems that this school, Barlby Community Primary School, is a new one in Barlby – built in 2002 according to the Ofsted report – http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/oxedu_providers/full/(urn)/121449 From the Google map, the nearby house look somewhat older, so that might explain why its neighbours are complaining now, although noise should have taken into account in the planning process. .

    It should not be confused with Barlby *Bridge* Community Primary School, which is a much older school although also recently extended, down the road in Selby –
    http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/oxedu_providers/full/(urn)/121448

  38. “This may be something of a cultural difference.”

    It’s certainly not a cultural difference – here in the UK we expect to hear kids running around shrieking their little heads off at break-time!

  39. Kacie, is there a reason you don’t want to see articles posted from other parts of the world?

  40. Kacie:
    I’m in the UK. I know that a number of the regular commenters on here are also from the UK, and there are also people from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain, and other countries. There are no doubt many more people from around the world who read but don’t comment.
    We are all here reading this blog because we are interested in the issues it raises, because they affect us too. Why should Lenore restrict her articles according to a fairly arbitrary geographical boundary, when the cultural problems she’s addressing are widespread throughout the world?

    On topic, I see that according to the original article the council said that they didn’t think there was likely to be a problem with noise levels. It’s sad that the school should feel the need to fall over backwards to accommodate the complainers.

  41. Orielwen – I note the council say that though don’t think normal playground use would cause a statutory nuisance, they ill be assessing the noise level over the next month. Which makes me wonder if the school is really just intending taking these steps while the council is monitoring. Maybe that’s too cynical of me.

  42. Next thing you know, people living near a stadium will ask the public to applaud moderately when their team scores. And no loudspeakers, of course.
    Really, my children had trouble sleeping the night Spain won the World Cup this summer – all those drunken hooligans singing and dancing in the streets!
    But there was no need to complain… Our revenge came when I let my kids loose the next morning, squealing around hungover neighbours, heeheehee

  43. As other have said I thought the sound of kids playing was a good sound.

  44. My children’s school is at the end of my street, about a half mile, and while I don’t always hear recess, I can hear activities like field day all the way from my house. Most of the adjacent neighbors to the school are elderly, and they have no problems with the noise. I think they enjoy the joyful sounds of children playing. Such a shame that this British school doesn’t have such enthusiastic neighbors.

  45. @Nicola What I meant by ‘late’ is up to 8:30PM.

  46. Kacie, this is the “World Wide Web.” There is no “here in the U.S.” as far as the virtual world is concerned. Yes, Lenore’s an American writing from America, but why should that limit the scope of what she talks about? I can’t see a single reason that makes sense.

  47. @Joette – primary school (UK) is elementary school (US). Grammar schools are something entirely different, and usually cater to students aged 11-18.

  48. Liz, in some areas of the US the first official school children attend is indeed called grammar school.

    But school terminology in this country is completely messed up.

  49. I also think that grammar school is an old time name for the first school that children attend in the US. Many seniors that I know commonly refer to elementary school as grammar school, even if the schools in their area are called elementary schools. I’m guessing that the term “grammar school” was more commonly used a couple generations ago and has changed to elementary school in the relatively recent past.

  50. @Liz: Indeed, that was my point. Lenore called this primary school a grammar school, which is proper usage in the US but not in the UK where a grammar school is something completely different and was trying to head off helenquine’s (and possibly other UK’ers) confusion.

    It’s amusing to me that, even though we nominally speak the same language, sometimes translation is still necessary!

  51. I think “grammar school” is also commonly used among American families who use Catholic parochial schools, which traditionally run from K-8.

    “Official” American school terminology for public schools is that any school that contains grades 6 and below or any school that contains all grades from K to 7 or 8 is an “elementary school”; a school that runs from 5 or 6 to 8 or 9 is a “middle school”, and a school that contains grades 9 or 10 to 12 is a high school. There are still some “junior high schools” left that start at 7 and end somewhere before 10, but in most places those have been replaced by middle schools. Locally the only junior high schools I’m aware of are in districts that are so small that there is really only one school building for grades 7 and above, but the younger grades are called “junior high” and the older grades “senior high.”

    I even know of one school district in New York State that has an “intermediate school” that contains….grade 9. I don’t know how common that sort of thing is.

  52. It sounds to me like the school governors are suffering from a wild excess of risk management.

    (I once worked with another graduate student who was deathly allergic to cut conifers in enclosed areas– making the winter holiday season difficult for him; polite requests to the next office over that they not have a live Christmas tree were ignored. Foolishly, he took it up with risk management at the University, whose response was that he should be fired from his position because having the allergy meant he ‘posed a risk to himself.’)

  53. Our house is right across the street from a Catholic school (I don’t send my kids to).
    A couple of years after buying our 125 year-old house a neighbour told me it was hard to get “really good” prices for the houses on this end of our road because of the school.

    To this day a never understood why, so thank you for furthering my understanding of the phenomenon of human intolerance.
    “My” school does have 30-40 minutes of recess every day – usueally outside, but I can’t for the life of me imagine how that should bother anybody but myself (as I’m working from home doing a 30000 word translation). However, I do have the sense to realize that it’s my problem, and that they have every right to be out and make noise, so now it’s my excuse to get out of the house and go to the coffee-shop down the street

  54. It seems to be a general phenomenon of human kind, the NIMBY (or not in my backyard) way of thinking. People move somehwere because it’s cheaper to live there and then are surprised when there is a reason for the lower price, like a noisy street, a railway line, airplane traffic, church bells (yes, have been outlawed in some places in Germany) or a school. And then they start a quest to stop that noise although the reason for the noise has been there for decades and existed when they moved there. Or they want to be close to a school/have easy access to a major road/ you name it, but heaven forbids if they hear something about it at home!

  55. Do a lot of old, childless people live near schools in the UK or something? Because here it’s mostly families with school age kids who live near schools, and it’s hard for me to imagine them complaining about noise during the school day. Or even being home during much of the school day.

  56. Booooooo! I think anyone who complains like that should have their pic posted on phone poles around their neighborhood labeled as a child-hating curmudgeon.

  57. “Locally the only junior high schools I’m aware of are in districts that are so small that there is really only one school building for grades 7 and above, but the younger grades are called “junior high” and the older grades senior high.”

    We have LOTS of “junior high” (7&8 grade) schools where I live in the U.S., as well as “secondary schools” (7-12th grade) AND a few “middle schools” (6-8 grade). The “secondary schools” (7-12) are by no means in small districts, and they generally have 3,000 students in them.

    “Elementary School” is 1st-6th in most cases, though 1-5 in areas that feed into “middle schools.” I often heard “elementary school” referred to as “grammar school” growing up.

  58. @Joette — I have my suspicion that adults encouraged girls to be “ladylike” and quiet because girls are so very much noisier than boys. But that is just my suspicion.

  59. Pentamom, the difference between middle school and junior high school (and there are no official US terms. Unfortunately, this is a very BIG country with incredibly varied terminology about this!) is technically supposed to do with pedagogy, not with age groups.

    In a junior high school, traditionally, it’s just like high school but for younger kids. You have your schedule, the other kids have their schedules, and everybody does their own thing.

    Some time ago the middle school concept became more widespread – you and your homeroom go from class to class in a group (with maybe a few electives – for example, in my middle school (actually called an intermediate school!) I had all my classes with my homeroom except chorus, Spanish, gym, and the other elective (health, art, drama). And Chorus, gym, and the other elective were all with the same group of people as well, like having a secondary homeroom) and there’s some level of interdisciplinary teaching.

    These are the technical terms, but not many people know this nowadays, and not only do most people use them interchangeably but many school districts do as well.

  60. I live next door to a very large school.
    I am a shift worker, so, yes, I am attempting to sleep during the day whilst they play.

    Now, I will admit after a tough night shift to making all sorts of mutterings under my breath about noisy bleepin things (the trucks, ambulances going to the hospital and the birds also get the same muttering) BUT, I do not want any of these things BANNED.

    I can a) get some earplugs to sleep better
    b) move
    or c) go about as I currently am muttering under my breath until I manage to pass out from sheer exhaustion.

    As I like where I live Im going for option c😉

    Let the children play.

  61. I know it’s off topic, but I’ve really appreciated the nomenclature discussion. I lived in the States for 13 years, but not having school aged children I didn’t pick up details like this. Makes me wonder what ridiculous things I said in conversation when I made assumptions about these terms🙂

  62. Urban noise is a real issue. But of a school?. Well perhaps one more reason to do away with them. After all why should a several hundred children have to put up with the noise each other make for the short periods they are free to explore life. This is how animals in any battery farm, behave. If they were truly learning and exploring and being part of the community, they would have ample output, ample attention, ample attention and quiet.

  63. Heh, we moved to our new home last year knowing full well that just the other side of the neighborhood (three blocks over) were several sets of train tracks and that trains come through fairly regularly and blow their whistles. We have gotten used to it and actually like to hear the trains coming through most of the time (getting stopped by them while driving is another matter)!!

    Just behind our house and pond is a field…just the other side of the field are a couple blocks of houses…and just beyond those houses and visible from our backyard is the high school football stadium. On evenings where the football team or band are practicing or on game nights the lights flood out toward us and if we have our windows open we can hear drumming, whistles, cheering, etc. We actually enjoy hearing it…and it will be many, many years before our little guy is old enough to play in high school sports or bands!!

  64. I sublet a house next to a school yard one year. This was a K- 5 school in a decent neighborhood in Philly. Imagine my surprise on my first weekday morning to hear a group of what sounded like 7 year olds cursing each other out (gleefully) using words that would make most sailors blush.

    My bedroom was basically right next to the part of the school yard that was farthest from the school building. And since this was before actually started, the kids weren’t on recess.

    And while I didn’t enjoy being woken up to the sound of prepubescent voices screaming profanity, it never crossed my mind to complain to the school.

  65. The school has decided to reinstate recess because of all the support they received from the public: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-11395953
    🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: