Backing sought for national body to champion play

By Emma Channon

| 13 February 2015

A new national body to promote children's play is set to be established if it gets the backing of the sector, it has emerged.

The idea for a national body for play was first mooted in 2013. Picture: Emilie Sandy

The organisation would aim to champion the sector and provide a platform for practitioners to come together and discuss ideas.

A “playwork steering group” has been established, made up of five leading figures in the sector, to explore the viability of the idea.

The group has said it is now "seeking a mandate" for the new organisation.

It has launched an online survey to garner feedback on the proposal.

Adrian Voce, a member of the steering group and former director of Play England, said a national body would provide a platform to stress the importance of children’s play.

“Playwork is a way of working with children that provides them with a dedicated space within which the pressures of their school life, home life and the relentless pursuit of achievement disappear and they can simply follow their own agendas,” he said.

“We think that’s important, that children have that type of space. More and more children are denied the freedom to explore the outdoor world and there’s a lot of pressure on children to participate in social media and electronic games.”

Voce said the argument for health benefits of play was also significant.

“We do know there are prudent health benefits and there are a number of studies linked between pre-play and increased levels of activity,” he said.

“It’s also good for social skills and there are many studies of children that play that show increased adaptability, flexibility, innovation and creativity.

“But it’s also important that play should not be primarily seen as instrumental in those longer-term outcomes.

"The main purpose in providing children with the space to play is because children need to play.”

The play sector has suffered significant cuts in recent years.

In January 2014, CYP Now revealed that nearly a third of local authorities in England closed play facilities as a result of spending on play services between 2011 and 2014 being slashed by 39 per cent on average.

The idea for a national body was first mooted in 2013 by the late Perry Else, professor of play studies at Sheffield Hallam University and playwork theorist Bob Hughes, in response to severe cuts to services.

Cath Prisk, director of Outdoor People, said the body would help promote the principles of playwork.

“It can support, develop and unite the professionals working in adventure playgrounds, outreach provision in parks and communities, holiday play schemes and after-school clubs,” she said.

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