Bruce is the principal of Swanson Primary School in a suburb of West Auckland, New Zealand, and has been described as a poster boy for ‘the good old days’. Recently, Mr McLachlan has made international headlines for the approach his school is taking to rules governing children’s play. The school provides an environment where children have ample opportunities to learn from their mistakes, to manage risk within reason and to figure out what works by trial and error. Children ride bikes, build huts, climb trees and play-fight. The media attention has been overwhelmingly positive. The idea of allowing ‘kids to be kids’ has resonated with people all over the world. Bullying, conflict and serious injuries are down, while creativity, problem solving and concentration are up.
His school originally took part in a study conducted by Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the University of Otago. The study’s aim was to determine if improving school playgrounds enhanced physical activity and reduced the prevalence of obesity and bullying. Mr McLachlan took it further by slowly removing all the ‘rules’ associated with play that had accumulated in schools over the years.