London, Feb 25 (ANI): A school in Britain has banned its pupils from bringing modern synthetic or leather footballs into the playground and told them to use balls made of sponge instead.
Teacher at a primary school in Huyton, near Liverpool, said the heavy balls are unsuitable for an enclosed space where young children may be playing, and risks injury.
But critics have slammed the move as an absurd over-reaction, especially since it comes amid fears over Britain's childhood obesity epidemic.
Malvern Primary School in Huyton, an area with Britain's second worst obesity record, sent out the rule in this month's newsletter.
"Please can we request that only sponge balls are brought into school. This is to ensure the safety of all our pupils when on the playground," it stated.
But Tam Fry, chairman of obesity prevention charity the Child Growth Foundation, disagreed with the rule.
"Children must be exposed to risk, otherwise how can they be expected to learn? It may think it is protecting the children, but they could just as easily fall over playing with a sponge ball," the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
"Policies like this mean our children are in danger of becoming cocooned cotton buds," he stated.
Critics say it is just the latest obstacle created by political correctness to stand in the way of the exercise and life skills children can gain from taking part in sport.
"We do have a litigation culture, but you can't tell me Steven Gerrard did not play football in the playground - I bet he even fell over a few times," Fry added.
And Adrian Voce, director of Play England, which advises schools on safe, fun pastimes, pointed out that last year's review on health and safety by Lord Young recommended a common sense approach to managing risk in children's play-times.
"Research tells us that children need to play adventurously and test themselves, yet many children don't get the opportunity to do so in our risk-adverse society," he said.
"Children must be allowed to encounter some risks for themselves as a natural part of their play and growing up," he added.
Knowsley, Huyton's local district, has among the country's worst GCSE results, and in 2004 was ranked behind only Hull in a league table of Britain's fattest towns. (ANI)