Where will children’s play be under this Conservative government? Part 2

Cath Prisk
Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Building on last week’s first prediction, what about the statutory sector? After all it is where children spend most of their time, and indeed there are moves in many schools to try to make the day far longer again. Will that mean longer days behind a desk? Or will some of the newly independent head teachers nationwide think more laterally?

2) Free schools, academies and other schools will have to find alternative ways to provide playtime…

The Conservative manifesto yes says increased emphasis on the curriculum, but it also says increased independence too. And an investment of £7bn in providing ‘good school places’ with a commitment to protect school budgets and increase real-time funds as the pupil numbers increase.

What that means will be (we are told) up to the head teachers as long as it means better reading and maths too. As no school doesn’t believe in better reading and maths, and there is clear evidence that increased play and outdoor activity does actually improve reading and maths – not to mention resilience, social skills and creativity – then we have to hope that means some of that pupil premium and guaranteed funding will indeed be invested in forest schools, outdoor learning, wraparound provision and, critically, spaces to play. If only so the pupils can get rid of fidgets and develop the core strength to sit through the longer academic afternoons!

Even where land is at a premium, and given there is no requirement for free schools to have playgrounds, schools can look at alternative solutions. These might be indoor hanging gardens, climbing walls and nets, street play and regular use of alternative sites. They could partner with play, parks and youth services to make best use of alternative green spaces in easy reach. And if they are offering 8am-6pm days surely the argument is clearly there that they need trained playworkers as part of the team? After all children could be there for up to four hours of their own free time a day, and who better to plan for that environment?

Cath Prisk runs her own social enterprise Outdoor People, and is a trustee for The Wild Network. She was formerly director of Play England?

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