Banning ‘best friends’ is dumb and damaging

Most schools are sensible, well-balanced places, where children are nurtured and taught enough intellectual, social and emotional skills to have a go at living life.

But occasionally, an errant educational establishment - or, more likely, a misguided headteacher - gives them a bad name.

We've had the stupidity of banning conkers in the playground and the inanity of stopping competitive sports in case people lose. Now, some schools in Kingston and Surrey have knitted another pullover of political correctness to protect pampered children from the dangers of real life.

The lame leaders of these lukewarm seats of learning have banned their pupils from having best friends - so that they don't get upset when they fall out. Instead, they are encouraged to play in large groups.

Firstly, is it a good idea to encourage children to hang about in groups? If they continue to do so when they leave school, they will frighten old people, prompt Daily Mail readers to write letters, be dispersed by water cannons and arrested under the antisocial behaviour act of 2003 for congregating in illegal numbers.

That's hardly preparing them for a law-abiding, useful life.

More importantly, by outlawing best friends, schools are failing to give children a grounding in reality.

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Our childhood friendships are how we first learn about relationships, and the qualities that are required to sustain them. We learn to accept people's differences, to forgive, to love, to share and to comfort one another.

We also learn how to cope with disappointment, being let down and being rejected. After 38 years of life, I can assure children that all of those will happen to them, probably repeatedly.

Not that I had any 'best' friends at school, mind (although, contrary to rumours, I did have some friends).

I preferred the spread-betting approach, putting my money on a broad field of runners and riders, thus cushioning the blow when one or two fell by the wayside.

Most boys tended to go for that approach. But I'd often be entertained by the girls, who would put their heart and soul into exclusive relationships with a 'best' friend, then behave like lovelorn romantic poets when the inevitable fallout followed.

If they'd been banned from having best pals, there'd have been less histrionics. But my school life would have been duller.

? Do any of you subscribe to the Mail's view of humanity? You know, the one that says people no longer care about each other and society is 'broken'?

A favourite sub-plot is that Premiership soccer players are overpaid prima donnas who have no sensitivity, while fans are tribal, selfish and disrespectful.

If you think all of the above is true, I give you exhibit A - the response to the collapse of Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba.

More than 40,000 people fell silent, then chanted Muamba's name and applauded him as he was stretchered off. Many were moved to tears, as were most of the players involved in the match. When the game was called off, everybody filed home quietly without a murmur of discontent.

As a human drama played out, we saw a clear demonstration that mutual respect and compassion still have a place in the hearts of most people.