I AM sure that we all remember some of our teachers from when we were at school, especially those who were a bit quirky.

Mr Jones, one of my chemistry teachers, used to tell us endless stories of his National Service days in Cyprus, keeping the peace.

He had put his wedding ring in mercury to demonstrate that the mercury would dissolve the gold, he’d take it back out and pop it straight back on his ring finger, with no regard for the risks involved in handling mercury.

He was a great teacher and we had a great deal of respect for him, although I’m not suggesting his working practice with mercury was wise!

In the 1980s, there seemed to be little regard for Health and Safety.

Teachers’ lives were certainly not governed by countless policies and regulations. But things have changed.

One of our statutory duties as a school today is to label sources of drinking water — just in case the pupils have recently landed from the moon and don’t know what a drinking fountain is for!

But joking aside, our statutory duties and regulations are actually very sensible and very necessary in keeping children safe.

The approach to risk should be risk aware and control, but in some circumstances where the extent of risk is difficult to establish, risk avoidance may be the best option.

Last year, a group of 10 boys and two staff from my school trekked for five days in the Atlas Mountains in temperatures reaching 40C across rugged terrain and steep descents.

When the group got back to Marrakesh, the boys wanted to go to a local water park, but were unable to do so as it hadn’t undergone a suitable risk assessment by the expedition company which seemed very odd given what they had spent the previous days doing.

This was, on balance, the right decision at the time.

It is, of course, vital that we retain a sense of perspective, so that we can recognise those who are genuinely at risk and indeed what presents real risk.

And ‘risk’ is the key word. Life is full of risks and it’s our job as teachers and parents to assess the level of risk and to support our children in taking risks — both when under our supervision and when not.

Zero risk (if it exists) may well equal zero fun, and one of the greatest joys of working with young people is their infectious sense of fun.

I have no idea if Mr Jones is still alive, but it was his slightly unorthodox approach and ability to relate to young people which made chemistry come alive and inspired generations of pupils including me.

For that, I owe him a great deal.