School principals and leadership staff only have a few months to come up with a strategy to prevent four-year-olds from using playground equipment on elementary schools through the Halifax Regional Municipality.
“We’ve said to our school principals that they need to come up with a plan to ensure that no children under the age of five are using the playground equipment. We’re doing our due-diligence by putting steps in place to ensure that no children under five are on playground equipment when they’re in our care,” Doug Hadley said, a spokesperson with the Halifax Regional Centre for Education.
In Nova Scotia, parents are allowed to enroll their children in Grade Primary as long as they turn five on or before December 31 of the calendar year they’re being enrolled in. That means prior to this year, four-year-olds have been playing on playground equipment.
“Last fall this came to light with the introduction of the provincial pre-primary program and the school insurance program which provides insurance advice to all school boards in Nova Scotia said really, most playground equipment is for children ages five and up and we should not have four-year-olds playing on it,” Hadley said.
According to the province, the Department of Education became aware of the “risk” with four-year-olds using playground equipment during the rollout of the pre-primary program.
Despite the risk, the province says students are still covered under the School Insurance Program.
“The school insurance program, SIP, covers all students registered in public schools, regardless of their age, as well as children in any child-care centre and preprimary program operated by Regional Centres of Education/CSAP, in the event of an injury. In accordance with CSA standards, as a precaution, it is recommended that students and children under five not use equipment that is designed for older children,” Heather Fairbairn said, a spokesperson with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.
Both the Department of Education and HRCE are sending the message that restrictions around the use of playground equipment by four-year-olds come with solutions.
“We understand that there are going to be some people that are disappointed with this but it’s a very short period of time. It’s the first three or four months of a child’s elementary school experience and they’ll have lots of great opportunities to play and explore on the schoolyard and the playground equipment will still be there when they’re all five,” Hadley said.