A HEADTEACHER has backed authors who criticised Oxford University Press for replacing nature vocabulary with hi-tech alternatives in a junior dictionary.

A group of 28 authors, including former children’s laureate Michael Morpurgo, have complained to Walton Street-based OUP about the removal of around 50 words from the Oxford Junior Dictionary (OJD), aimed at seven-year-olds.

While nature words have been removed, new words about computing including ‘cut and paste’, ‘broadband’ and ‘analogue’ have been added.

The authors said the move meant children would be less likely to spend time outdoors playing games with conkers or picking blackberries.

Headteacher of West Oxford Primary School Clare Bladen backed the authors and said the 238-pupil school in Ferry Hinksey Road had a particular focus on outdoor learning.

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She said: “These are children of the 21st century so they need to know hi-tech stuff, but there does need to be a balance between screen time and time outdoors.

“Technical language is part of children’s everyday speech, but they might not necessarily come across words like chestnut and conker, so they should stay in the dictionary.”

Pupils at the school agreed that nature words should not be scrapped readily.

Frith Dixon, seven, from Oxford, said: “I love playing outdoors so I think the nature words should stay.”

Rosie Gee, also seven, from Oxford, added: “I live on a farm and I love learning about nature.”

The authors said the changes, first implemented in 2007 and maintained in the 2012 edition, would lead to youngsters focusing less on the great outdoors.

Their letter to OUP said: “Compared with a generation ago, when 40 per cent of children regularly played in natural areas, only 10 per cent do so, while another 40 per cent never play anywhere outdoors.

“It is worrying that in contrast to those words taken out, many [of the words added] are associated with the solitary childhoods of today.

“The National Trust list of 50 things to do before you are 11 includes many for which OJD once had words, but no longer, like playing conkers, picking blackberries, or catching minnows in a net.”

OUP spokeswoman Harriet Bayly said: “The Oxford Junior Dictionary includes around 400 words related to nature.”

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