CRB - Common Sense RIP Today - Aikido Articles

I'd like to pay tribute to a dear old friend of ours, who we will remember with deep fondness and great memories. I am, of course referring to our greatest ally "Common Sense", who - over the years - has remained a stalwart in our clubs and society in general.

Unfortunately, after years of neglect and tampering from over-zealous politicians, we have seen the slow demise and now it seems the death of our good friend.

So where do I start? Could it be the nation's fire fighters, who have been told not to change light bulbs in their fire stations whilst using a ladder? Could it be the police, who need to follow a 5 step guide when changing theirs? Could it be the care assistants who have been told that if an elderly patient falls down the stairs, they must let them fall, in order not to hurt themselves?

The list gets longer every day, and inevitably, anybody working with children is always going to find themselves subject to some ludicrous legislation drafted in as a knee jerk reaction to situations which may not have even happened.

Like many other instructors and black belts, I recently attended an Instructor's course in order to renew my CRB certification. Now before I start, let me point out that when it comes to protecting children, I'm right at the front of the queue, wearing the T-shirt and waving my banner. However, listening to the course in detail, I seriously wonder whether the authors of the course have ever run a club in their lives!

The cynical side of me has always heard the sound of cash tills ringing in the background of all the instructions, and this view was strengthened even further this time when we were informed that there will soon be a secondary form of certification needed at an additional cost of £60. This is on top of a completely different CRB that I had completed that week for work, which had cost me £35.

I'm sure that the "powers that be" will wax lyrical about the reasons for not having a central CRB database that EVERYONE can use, regardless of work, recreation or leisure. There just seems to be an air of fear that if anyone speaks up against all the excessive guidelines that are being put in place, they are terrified of being compared to "one of them"!

Let me take you back 4 years ago, when I was refereeing football matches at park level on Saturday afternoons. The FA suddenly announced that ALL referees needed to be CRB checked. Firstly, I pointed out that I was already certified through my Taekwondo club, but was told that this was not valid and needed one through the FA at a cost of £10. Another member of the Referee's Association told us about the Deputy Commissioner from Cambridgeshire Police, who was also refereeing during weekends. He was responsible for Child Protection in his county and held the highest Level of CRB in the country, but STILL needed the additional one authorised by the FA!

I then pointed out that I only officiated adult matches, but was told that I still needed to have the CRB from the FA, just in case a team fielded a minor (which is illegal!) who could be injured and "open to abuse"! This lead me to my main question - if match officials need to be CRB checked, what about the players? (No answer was offered for this.) Further research revealed that not one referee had ever been accused of abusing a child!

Needless to say, the effect on the Referee's Association was one of sheer disbelief, but the FA hadn't finished! They were then planning to send any team coach who appoints a non-CRB checked referee to PRISON for 5 years, and this was on a week when an offender had just been jailed for two and a half years! This rule would also have applied to coaches who had asked one of their own non-CRB checked players to referee if the original match official had failed to turn up!

This final ruling proved too much even for the FA, who withdrew it soon after. But the whole episode took its toll on the match officials, with a third of all referees reportedly quitting, disgusted with the constant abuse from players and supporters, and now the mistrust of the very people supposed to be supporting them.

It was at this point that I'd also had enough, and decided to expand my Taekwondo club on to Saturdays, where the CRB seemed simple and the procedures less complicated. But now it seems that common sense has not only finished within the FA, but appears to be deserting every other organisation within the United Kingdom.

The first area of concern that I have is the "Photograph and Recorded Images Usage Form", which all responsible instructors will have completed for each student aged under 18, if they are to be featured on a club website. Does the author of this document not think that asking the child involved to counter sign and date it, is not just unnecessary, it is over the top? I'm always given strange looks from the parents of my younger students, aged 4-6 who can't even write. Those who can, often sign with their favourite crayon, and their "signature" is normally accompanied by several incomprehensible drawings!

I was then approached by the guardian of one of my students, who pointed out to me that their signature would be confirming that the child was not subject to a court order, to which he was. I subsequently phoned the number provided for the British Taekwondo Council, but the telephone was never answered, and I never received a reply to the email that I sent. Surely, if the BTC are going to implement these guidelines, they MUST assist instructors in dealing with these issues. On a side note, I then contacted Bill Darlington at the BTCB, who replied very swiftly, and was most helpful, giving me the advice needed - thanks Bill.

During the course that I attended 3 years ago, (we weren't reminded of it this time, so I am wondering whether it is still valid), all instructors were advised that they must inform the parents of new children starting that: "the child will be touched by us at some stage"!!! Luckily, I know that I am not alone in believing this to be woefully inappropriate, as everyone else on the course at the time looked at each other in disbelief!

How many instructors have honestly stuck to this rule? I'm sure that any who have, would have needed to hold the door open for the parent and child as they run back out again, and down the road to the next martial arts club!

One new instruction which really made everyone's eyes roll to the back of the head, was that a child is not allowed to demonstrate a technique in class. Now, I'm not sure on the full extent of this. Hopefully, it simply implies that as an instructor, you are not asking a student to demonstrate a technique, only to show them up in front of the rest of the class by criticising or even ridiculing them.

I sincerely hope that this does not include asking a child to demonstrate a technique, because you want to show the rest of the class just how good it is. By using certain children to demonstrate a technique under these circumstances, it boosts their confidence and can even improve on what they have demonstrated.

For me, one of the biggest concerns was that all parents/drivers taking any children to competitions must be CRB checked. My club is based in a close community, which has a village feel and everyone knows each other well. Parents often take it in turns to bring or collect each others children to class each week, so to suddenly inform them that they can't do the same for competitions would be insulting in the least!

In a similar vain, all instructors were told that students must get changed in the changing rooms or toilets. In following this instruction, I realised that all children were now getting changed in close proximity to adults who were not CRB checked!

Let me give you another example of an incident that recently happened at my club. One of the smaller boys took a knock, and being a bit tearful, I sent him to the toilet to put some water where he had hurt himself. As neither of his parents had stayed to watch the lesson, one of the other dads volunteered to check that he was okay.

I have known this dad for some time, and know that he is CRB checked from the work that he does with the local football team. But what if he hadn't been CRB checked? He kindly offered his assistance because I was busy running the class. How can I stop someone helping me, or send in a second parent without thoroughly insulting them?

Let me finish with another crazy example of the lengths local authorities seem to be going in order to make everyone's life even harder. A friend's son recently went on a trip with his local Beaver Group. My friend had to confirm and sign for the following information which was needed:

  • 1) Permission for her son to attend
  • 2) Name, Address and Telephone Number of Doctor
  • 3) Confirmation of any medication which was to be taken
  • 4) Date of last tetanus immunisation
  • 5) Confirmation whether child has any allergies to food, medicines or other, such as plasters
  • 6) Confirmation of any special needs
  • 7) Date of Birth
  • 8) National Health Number
  • 9) Emergency telephone number
  • 10) Permission for child to be photographed
  • 11) Permission for medical treatment to be given if parent cannot be contacted on emergency telephone number provided

Now, many of you may think as I did, that this would be fairly standard in this day an age. However, when I learned that the trip was actually for ONE AFTERNOON, my first thought was how long it would take for most of this to find its way into the paperwork used in Taekwondo?

Most of the parents at my club know that children will always take a tumble, but always bounce back and are usually quick to want to get straight back in to class. However, if the "powers that be" continue to place such stringent measures in ensuring a child's safety, how long before all clubs become Over 18's only?

Tony Butcher
(4th Dan Black Belt)
Head Instructor
Ickenham Taekwondo Club

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