Following a plea from doctors to ban tackling in school rugby on safety grounds, a group of academics has also called on the government to stop children’s human cannonball lessons.
The pastime, which has a near 100% fatality rate, is very popular among some parents and teachers, who say it builds character and is the only way of getting rid of the little bastards.
Rules vary across different parts of the country, but participants are generally loaded into a large cannon and fired at a tiny net some way away. Ofsted have complained that many schools are missing their targets.
Doctors warn that ‘high-impact’ activities like this can cause injuries including fractures, ligamentous tears and dislocated shoulders, although the main cause of death is usually simple ‘flattening’.
Johnny Angry, a PE teacher and father of nine at St Foolhardy’s School for Boys in the village of Harold – where human cannonball is compulsory from the age of 11 – says it provides a challenge.
Mr Angry says children wear gum-shields and are taught how to maintain the proper posture in the cannon to avoid injury, a technique known as “crossing your fingers”.
“Being shot out of a cannon helps build character. The risk factor is part of it,” he said to journalists, surrounded by his eight children.
“They enjoy the contact element. There is a ‘boy factor’ – it’s partly about developing masculinity. I would know, I’ve got seven kids, all boys.”
As the screams of another child failing to land in the safety net rang over the playing field, Angry continued. “I would say that some students need it. It provides a challenge for children of the right calibre. My six boys feel the same.”
Mr Angry excused himself to write a brief epitaph on the latest of many discreet wooden crosses being erected near the unused safety net.
“Little Timmy Angry – sadly missed.”