Evidence or not, play policy must be more than crumbs.

28 Mar
The dearth of evidence is a self-fulfilling result of government policy, but the case for play has already been made. Advocates must now target all the main parties – and be bold in what they ask for.

Tim Gill, on behalf of the Children’s Play Policy Forum (CPPF), has been calling for evidence of the efficacy of different forms of play provision to help make the case for a new play policy to the Coalition Government. We must all wish him well with this, but the skepticism he has apparently encountered in the task is to be expected.

This is the government, after all, that cancelled, within weeks of taking office, all its contracts for children’s play, including what would have been the most substantial evaluation of play provision ever undertaken. Its promise of a new, Big Society-friendly policy for play to replace the far-reaching 12 year strategy produced by Labour came to nothing.

This new policy was to be worked up by a high level ministerial task force announced by the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in June 2010. In the event, the task force never formally reported. In answering a question about its activities in the House of Commons, the (now former) Children’s Minister Sarah Teather made no mention whatsoever of children’s play.

There was, no doubt, a genuine desire in ministers like Teather and her Conservative colleague Tim Loughton (now also an ex-minister) to move the play agenda forward, in spite of Michael Gove quickly shedding (or shredding) the non-education parts of his portfolio. But like so much else, these designs were  squashed by Treasury hardliners; sacrificed on the mythical altar of deficit reduction. The abandonment of plans for a new play policy were was good as confirmed when 2010’s Comprehensive Spending Review scrapped almost all programmes for children and young people that didn’t go directly through schools.

The reality is that, whatever the Prime Minister’s earlier rhetoric about shrinking childhoods and children’s need for “everyday adventures”, a government committed to the long-term diminution in the role of state and a narrowly conservative agenda for education was never going to be receptive to the idea that it should do more for children out of school, and give them more space in it.

That Labour has been silent on the issue is more of a puzzle. It has an even chance of forming, or at least leading the next government. Play advocates must target their arguments to shadow ministers too. The Play Strategy was a cornerstone of Labour’s flagship Children’s Plan, with its aim to make England “the best place in the word to grow up” and an ambitious vision for both planning and children’s services that placed playing children at the heart of the public realm. It saw an almost 8 per cent increase in English children’s satisfaction with local play provision over the only year that the data was collected, 2009-10.

The play strategy was abandoned in the aftermath of the financial bubble bursting almost immediately after it was launched.

The Play Strategy was abandoned in the aftermath of the financial bubble bursting almost immediately after it was announced in 2007.

The contrast with the current prospect for public play provision could not be starker. Children & Young People Now reported in January 2014 that play services are being “decimated”, with nearly a third of local authorities in England having closed play facilities as a result of nation-wide spending cuts of 39 per cent between 2010/11 and 2013/14.

Yet, in spite of the rudely interrupted success of the Play Strategy and the disproportionate cuts now being born by play services as a result of coalition policies, play does not seem to feature in Labour’s current Policy Review, not even within the section on young people. Here, play services should be a perfect fit with the co-location agenda as well as having an integral role within a preventative approach, complementing early intervention, but there is no mention of them.

The child health section of the review also misses an opportunity to build on the success of the Play Strategy. Its exclusive focus on food misses the other part of the health equation: how to ensure children get the exercise and develop the active lifestyles to mitigate the sedentary behaviours that are an equally significant factor in the obesity epidemic.

That playing is the perfect, natural way for children to get all the exercise they need was highlighted by the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies’ report of October 2013. Indeed, it recognises the role of play in supporting children’s health and wellbeing on a range of fronts. “For children of primary school age” it says, “time spent in active, free play outside school … can contribute a significant amount of time to their physical activity rates … (and) may also bring a range of … emotional benefits … enabling children to build … self-esteem and self-confidence”.

Perhaps the current dialogue between the Cabinet Office and the CPPF will lead to the emergence of a serious response from the Government, but there will not be too many betting on it. For its part, Labour already has a solution – but does not show much willingness to retrieve it from the ashes of the Coalition’s bonfire.

Those currently advocating for play at the top table (“on whose behalf?” is a valid question) may think there is no mileage in rehashing policy from a previous era and that the Play Strategy should remain consigned to history. To that argument I simply ask why anything less than a cross-cutting, long-term plan, engaging all different tiers of government and the full mosaic of the public realm, will suffice for today’s children when it was so urgently needed a decade ago?

Lobbying is a hard game and there is a tendency to only ask for what seems to be on the table. The sector must resist the temptation to be overly grateful that the government is at least asking for evidence. This will convey the impression that throwing the sector some crumbs will be enough.

In the meantime, it remains to be seen what Tim will be able to produce in the way of hard evidence that specific interventions for play will produce long-term, measurable impacts – on children’s health or anything else. Play England’s economic analysis published in 2010 made some links between play provision and future life chance indicators (the cost-benefit stats beloved of Whitehall policy wonks), but even this fell on stony ground as far as the Coalition was concerned.

We are in a familiar catch-22. How do we collect data of sufficient scale, scope and reliability to unarguably demonstrate the benefits of providing for such a ubiquitous, instinctive human behaviour, when the programmes that would have provided the best opportunity to do so have been scrapped? And how do we get such programmes reinstated without the evidence that they work?

Phil Waters of the Eden Project has said in his recent piece for the playwork journal iP-D!P, that, given the evolutionary basis of play as a biological mechanism, essential for healthy development and the survival of the species, the challenge for play campaigners is to reframe the question from “why should society provide for play?” to “why would it not?”

The widespread adoption of this attitude must be our long-term objective. Until it is achieved, the search for an evidence-based case for a national play policy will continue. The fact that it was so recently made to and adopted by a party of government that now appears to have forgotten about it, shows how far we have to go.

This must not be allowed to undermine the unarguable case that children’s play is a fundamental human right, provision for which is a responsibility of government under international law.

Adrian Voce

Interest grows in a new vehicle for playwork

25 Mar
Following a successful stint at the Playwork Conference in Eastbourne earlier this month, the momentum towards establishing a new playwork body continues to grow.

Around 150 people have now broadly agreed on the purpose and nature of the kind of vehicle that the field wants to create.  A new playwork body could, for example:

  • Represent playworkers UK-wide, giving them a collective voice.
  • Be a focus for good practice: supporting research and other areas that develop playwork.
  • Promote playwork nationally and support local campaigns.
  • Lobby for policy change to create a legal and regulatory framework conducive to playwork services.
  • Provide support and benefits for playworkers, such as networking, information, skills sharing, events and resources.
  • Be outward looking, building links with other professions and sectors.

The discussions have also led to a broad consensus on what kind of vehicle the playwork community needs, with some general principles giving us a clear direction of travel: -

  1. Based on a cohesive narrative of playwork
    A new vehicle should be founded on clear and up-to-date knowledge, skills and understandings of playwork.
  2. Principled
    It should develop its aims and activities in a way that is fully consistent with playwork principles, regardless of market forces or policy trends.
  3. Pioneering
    It should be an agent for change, unafraid to challenge the status quo.
  4. Independent
    It should be independent of other agencies, owned by and accountable only to its members, however it may be funded and administered.
  5. Collaborative
    It should work with other organisations in the sector, aiming to complement existing activities that support playwork, rather than competing with them.
  6. Non-directive
    It should aim to mirror the values and ethos of the playwork approach: including, supporting and responding to the field rather than seeking to control or direct it.
  7. Inclusive
    It should work always to make playwork as available and as accessible as possible to the widest range of children, from the fullest diversity of their communities, whatever the barriers.
  8. Representative
    It should act only with a clear mandate from its members, through transparent, representative structures and processes.
  9. A champion for play
    It should be an advocate for playwork and the value of playing in general, working with and supporting play champions everywhere.
  10. Credible and united
    It should build unity and consensus within the playwork field, so as to speak with a credible and authoritative voice.
  11. Not-for-profit
    It must be non-commercial, securing only such funds as it needs to further its aims for playwork.

This is an organic process: nothing is carved in stone and these aspirations will, no doubt, continue to evolve as a new organisation starts to take shape.

Karen Benjamin and I are both very keen to stress that, whilst we have, up until now, led this process from a practical point of view, it has been a collective initiative from the start. We intend to continue to organise open meetings to involve as many people as possible in building this thing, and we have also proposed a steering group to share more of the tasks ahead.

In the meantime, we would like to see the numbers expressing an interest in the initiative, continue to grow. If you can broadly endorse the approach outlined here, would like to see a new body established on this basis, and might, in principle, be interested in joining it once it is formed, please e-mail adrianvoce@me.com with “playwork vehicle” as the subject. We will then add you to the mailing list.

Thank you!

 

Adrian Voce

Over to Eastbourne

28 Feb
The National Playwork Conference on 4-5 March could be a pivotal moment for the field.

A rolling discussion, initiated by Professor Perry Else of Sheffield Hallam University and Bob Hughes of Play Education last summer, about how the playwork field can remake the case for staffed play provision in the face of mounting cuts and a hugely unsympathetic policy landscape, moves to Eastbourne next week.

Since that Argument for Playwork gathering in July, subsequent meetings in Gloucester and Birmingham have developed the beginnings of a consensus within the field, that the time is right to create and establish our own vehicle: an independent playwork practitioner body, owned by and accountable to its members.

Nobody is underestimating  the scale of such a task, but one major hurdle – finding a broad initial agreement within the sector about what kind of body we want – may be in reach. The National Playwork Conference, held in Eastbourne on 4th and 5th March will either confirm or confound that hope.

The group driving this process has produced a short statement setting out the proposed direction of travel and some broad principles for a potential new body. It is asking the playwork community to endorse it by expressing an interest in possibly joining such an organisation when and if the project achieves its aim.

This invitation makes Eastbourne a pivotal moment. Without a strong mandate from the field, it will be difficult to sustain any credible momentum for such an ambitious project. If, on the other hand, the playwork community decides to organise itself; work together; adopt some structures and processes, reconciling our differences to the purpose of re-establishing our common ground and amplifying our collective voice and influence, there’s absolutely nothing to stop us. Like the Spirt of Adventure Play conference in Cardiff,  every year Eastbourne demonstrates that there is far more uniting UK playwork than there is dividing it.

Perhaps this year we can harness that spirit to take playwork to the next level.

Adrian Voce

If you are part of the UK playwork community and want to endorse this process but are not attending Eastbourne, please email kbenjamin@glos.ac.uk and she will happily add you to the list. Thanks.

The statement can be read here.

Eastbourne Statement, March 2014

Help build the policy case for play

21 Jan

adrianvoce:

This week I am re-blogging this potentially important post from Tim Gill’s Re-Thinking Childhood blog, about a research project to inform the play policy case to the current government.

Before becoming an independent writer and researcher, Tim was my predecessor as director of the Children’s Play Council (CPC) and a close associate of Play England through the key years that followed. He was one of the researchers who helped us to marshal the evidence in 2005-7, as we put the case for a national Play Strategy to the Government of the time.

Earlier, as director of CPC, he was a co-author of Making the Case for Play, which first set out the vision for a cohesive national play policy in 2001; and then, seconded to Whitehall, he also researched and drafted the Play Review under Frank Dobson MP. This formed the basis for the lottery Play Programme that followed and paved the way for the subsequent government investment.

Tim therefore has considerable form in this area. Let’s take this as a good omen that, although we are now in a very different economic and political climate, perhaps this government too is finally getting serious about play.

Adrian Voce

Originally posted on Rethinking Childhood:

kids playing on big letters spelling play

Playday, Bristol City Council

This post asks for your help in building the case for play. I am writing a report – aimed at Government – that gathers together evidence for the difference that play facilities and initiatives can make to children, families and communities. And I need your help in pulling together this evidence. I hope you agree this is an important and urgent task, given the scale of recent cuts to play facilities.

View original 799 more words

Playwork awards – nominate now!

16 Jan
Meynell Walter, organiser of the annual Playwork Conference in Eastbourne, invites the playwork community to once again celebrate its own

It is award season – and not only in the world of movies. Here in the world of Playwork we are getting ready for our 5th Awards Ceremony. Celebrating all that is good in the world of Playwork.

So we need your help:

  1. If you know of anyone worthy of an Award please nominate them
  2. If you have an email list, or a magazine, a blog or any other communication network please circulate the awards information that can be found here, so we can have a truly UK wide set of nominations and involvement in these awards.

If you would like the information in any other format please let me know and I will see what we can do.

Not too late book!

The Awards ceremony is on Tuesday 4th March 2014 at the National Playwork Conference in Eastbourne. The Conference currently has 220 participants but we would like to make it to 300. If you haven’t booked yet, NOW is the time to do so. Quote the ref NOWISTHETIME to get an individual £300 discount from the full Conference package price if you book before the end of January.

Meynell Walter
Meynell Games Group

www.playworkconferences.org.uk 

_wsb_181x172_2014-Conference-logo-with-dates-v2

Does playwork need a new vehicle?

10 Jan

IMG_2861

Following an initiative by Play Education and Sheffield Hallam University last July, a meeting at the University of Gloucestershire in December agreed to continue to research and consult on a potential practitioner body for playwork. Adrian Voce and Karen Benjamin, who co-organised the event, here report on its origins and outcomes.

In July last year Professor Perry Else of Sheffield Hallam University and Bob Hughes of Play Education, called a meeting under the banner, The Argument for Playwork.  The purpose was “to expound and share ideas that demonstrate why a continuing playwork presence is vital in many children’s lives today, and to initiate actions that ensure that”.

The meeting discussed the huge challenges facing playwork, as services are cut, playworkers made redundant or redeployed, and courses cancelled on an unprecedented scale. A recent blog by Tim Gill (very helpfully drawing on a subscriber-only report by Children and Young People Now) paints a fuller, national picture of what we have all been witnessing locally.

The Sheffield meeting focused also on how playwork is – or more often isn’t – currently represented, particularly in England. The voice for playwork was perceived to be mainly absent not only from the national debate about public services, but also from whatever discourse there is about play provision itself.

Flowing from this part of the discussion, a sub-group of the Sheffield meeting considered the potential for a new representative body for playwork. The discussion was exploratory and open-ended, aiming to identify a range of issues, principles, functions and possible next steps – options rather than decisions.

Some informal discussions continued after the Sheffield meeting and, in December, a further meeting – open to all in the playwork community – was called at the University of Gloucestershire, to follow up on Perry and Bob’s initiative and to determine whether there was a sufficient consensus for some concrete action to test the potential for a new playwork vehicle.

This report aims to convey the essence of what was discussed, and to highlight whatever consensus was reached by the two meetings.

Purpose

Principles and potential functions for any new body were major items on each agenda. Although each group was clear that these should be seen as provisional (subject to change and ultimate adoption by an inaugural practitioner body, whenever that may be), there was sufficient consensus to set them out here as a reasonably clear roadmap for where we might be headed.

Provisional Principles

  1. Principled
    A new body should adopt a vanguard approach; standing for playwork and playwork principles, determining its own aims and setting its own agenda regardless of market forces or policy trends.
  2. Independent
    It should be independent of other agencies, owned by and accountable only to its members, however it may be funded and administered.
  3. Collaborative
    Notwithstanding the independence principle, any new vehicle should work with other organisations in the sector, aiming to be collaborative, adding value to existing structures and activities rather than competing with them.
  4. Inclusive
    A new playworker practitioner body should aim to mirror the values and ethos of the playwork approach, seeking to avoid elitism and hierarchies, regulation and directives.
  5. Committed to equalities and diversity
    A playwork body should actively embrace the equalities agenda, challenging discrimination of all kinds and seeking to always reflect the diversity of the communities we want to serve.
  6. Mandated
    A new vehicle should always seek to act only with a clear mandate, derived through the transparent good governance of its representative structures.
  7. Credible
    A new vehicle would need to be perceived as credible – by the playwork sector and those we seek to engage with.
  8. Not-for-Profit
    However a new body is constituted and whatever business model it adopts, it must be resolutely non-commercial, seeking or charging only such funds as it needs to operate, with any surpluses that may be generated invested in activities to further its aims for playwork.

Potential Functions

  1. Representation
    A new body for playwork could represent playworkers: mandated by them and giving them a collective voice.
  2. Development and dissemination of good practice
    It could be a centre for excellence in playwork, aiming to fund research, provide training opportunities and showcase good practice.
  3. Campaigning
    A new body could campaign for and promote playwork.
  4.  Support
    It could aim to provide different kinds of support for playworkers – such as information, events and resources.
  5. Engagement
    It could be outward looking – in dialogue with other professions, sectors and institutions.
  6. Benefits
    It could offer practical benefits to its members, such as insurance.

 Issues and challenges

 Less clear from the discussions to date is what type of structure would be most effective for any new practitioner body – or whether a feasible, sustainable business case can be made for whichever type of organisation would be needed to support and administer it. How such a project can be funded will clearly be a major challenge.

Another obstacle identified by the group as posing a serious challenge was the perennial problem of children’s play being widely taken for granted, not a subject for serious policy-making or public expenditure: it was thought that this would make securing funds difficult, especially at a time when infrastructure bodies are out of favour and the trend is for contraction and merger rather than creating new organisations. On top of this, playwork itself is barely recognised, let alone understood, by the public at large.

“playwork itself is barely recognised, let alone understood, by the public at large”.

Other issues to be addressed and overcome included, in some perspectives, the playwork community’s tendency for infighting and division; its innate, almost anarchic aversion to institutions and the practical challenges of involving face-to-face playworkers whose roles and job descriptions often leave little scope for the networking activity, meetings and conferences involved in forming an infrastructure body.

Some have also expressed the view that the very notion of a “professional body” is anathema to the playwork ethos – representing an elitist, self-interested and controlling tendency in mainstream western culture and economics that playwork is, in some ways, a reaction against. Practically, this debate means that one of the first questions a practitioner body will need to address is whether it wants a regulatory role – to issue, effectively, licenses to practice – or not.

Strengths and Traditions

Set against these challenges the two groups identified considerable strengths within the movement. These included: a cohesive theoretical framework; the passion and commitment of playworkers and the wider playwork community; the simple fact that playwork meets a profound need in society, however under-recognised this might be; the considerable tradition and history of the playwork sector in the UK; and the experience and expertise that this has engendered – with much work already done to define and establish it as an emerging profession with its own underpinning knowledge.

Obvious opportunities for such a big next step (at a time when this may seem counter-intuitive) were harder to identify, but the group saw the UN’s General Comment on Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a very positive development which could be used to make a stronger case for national play policy – including infrastructure support for practitioners.

“if there has sometimes been a historical lack of cohesion, it is at least partly because there has been no practitioner body through which to hold tensions and resolve issues”.

In general the group felt that debate around these issues was healthy and that if there has sometimes been a historical lack of cohesion, it is at least partly because there has been no practitioner body through which to hold tensions and resolve issues. Creating such a body, in this view, will therefore be essential to the advancement of the playwork community.

Playwork settings like this are being severely cut-back

Playwork settings like this are being severely cut-back

Discussion of the conundrum of redefining what a “profession” might be, and how to embody this within a functional and effective institute of some kind, concluded that this is a challenge that playwork needs to rise to – just as it has found and defined ways of working with children that are radically different from the education and care paradigms that otherwise prevail. One suggestion of how to achieve this was to aim to create a structure founded on mutual support, less reliant on finance, and organised laterally rather than hierarchically.

Next Steps

The group agreed in principle to seek resources that would enable it to carry out further research, such as a survey of playworkers and others in the playwork community and a comparative feasibility study to look at the different models of form and structure used by other professions. The Institute for Youth Work and the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) were two recently formed bodies identified as being close to the playwork sector and which may therefore provide examples of how we might proceed and what forms we might adopt.

But the group was clear that a playwork body should not necessarily base itself on existing models or other professions. Rather, it should aim to create whatever structure would best serve playwork and playworkers; embody the playwork ethos; reflect the playwork principles; support the playwork approach and promote playwork services.

Practically, the group agreed to actively seek funds to allow a more concerted plan to be implemented, but in the meantime to pursue a number of activities anyway, insofar as voluntary time and effort will allow: -

  • To accept the offer of a platform at the Playwork conference in Eastbourne in March to share news of any progress and to consult and engage directly with more members of the playwork community.
  • To prepare a feasibility study on governance and structural options for a new practitioner body, and to scope a survey on aims, principles and functions, addressing the key questions arising from the discussions so far.
  • To draft a short “statement of intent” for circulation and comment as part of the survey and, if the opportunity arises, to present this to the Eastbourne conference in order to seek a wider mandate for the project.
  • To maintain an open dialogue with the Playwork Unit at Skillsactive – in particular about the recently launched Register of Playwork Professionals – with a view to collaborating wherever practical, mutually desirable and congruent with agreed principles.
  • To similarly liaise with the Unite union.
  • To similarly liaise with the lead play agencies of the four UK nations.

There is clearly a huge amount to do and some considerable obstacles to overcome if the idea of a national playwork institute or professional body (call it what you will … for now) – owned and governed by practitioners themselves – is to be realised. Many will think the time is wrong to even be starting on such a venture.

“If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us? And if I am only for myself, then what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”

Yet the clear message from two serious and lengthy debates among some of the most experienced people in playwork, could perhaps best be summarised by paraphrasing the renowned early Jewish scholar, Hillel the Elder:  “If we are not for ourselves, who will be for us? And if I am only for myself, then what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”

The group will meet again on 10th February 2014, in Birmingham. Please contact Karen Benjamin at kbenjamin@glos.ac.uk if you would like to attend.

Adrian Voce & Karen Benjamin


Will 2014 see a play movement fight-back?

9 Jan

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

A personal message from Adrian Voce.

“The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,400 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it”.

Well, that is how Word Press have described the traffic on this site in 2013 in their annual report of my site stats. Without being an avid blog follower myself (so much to read, so little time…) I’m not quite sure what these stats represent in terms of the site’s true readership, but I suspect it is rather more modest than the host’s fireworks would have it. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to know that a few people are interested in my news and musings.

Time and space for children to play, in environments that afford them the fullness of that elemental experience, has arguably never been more difficult to come by in the modern era – in spite of the international community being clearer than ever that it is one of the most important human rights. To claim that public policy and government institutions – local, regional, national and pan-national – have nothing to do with this, is a folly of the highest order, or worse: a cynical lie.

The design and provision of children’s services; the management of traffic in residential areas; the policing of public order and neighbourhood disputes; the planning and design of the built environment; the design of the curriculum and the way that schools are managed and inspected; how we “educate” children in their early years; what passes for childcare; the design and maintenance of parks and open spaces – these are all areas of public life in which children have a huge stake, and where policy decisions shape their opportunities to play – for better or worse.

As things stand, if you were a child with sufficient insight into how public policy impacts on these areas, you would be forgiven for thinking that the needs of employers, car-owners, businesses, park-keepers, anyone irritated by the sound of you playing with your friends; even dogs were more important to society than your need to play – to be yourself. You might conclude that this was not, therefore, your right at all, but a childish whim, an aberration leading only to the naughty step.

I caricature for effect, as campaigners tend to, but there is a problem real enough for even pillars of the establishment as diverse as the Chief Medical Officer and the National Trust, to have highlighted over the past year. Children’s opportunities to play in space – social and cultural as well as physical – that is suited to the task, are continuing to diminish.

The toll of this atmosphere of what can only be described as cultural oppression, is untold. Obesity, rickets, self-harming, depression and eating disorders are all on the increase in young people, but very few politicians are willing to see the evidence that stares them in the face. Children have no vote, and so – play being the one area of their lives that is, or should be, entirely their own – England has no play policy.

Local decisions are increasingly reflecting this criminal omission, as Tim Gill’s recent blog about the decimation of local play services starkly describes. “Hard choices need to made” is the mantra, as ministers make a virtue of closing down or massively contracting whole areas of public life; except that, if the victims of these choices are children, it’s evidently not that hard at all.

2014 will be a crucial year for the play movement. In May 2015, if the Coalition Government remains intact until then, there will be a general election. Now is the time to seek manifesto pledges and other policy commitments from the political parties who will be campaigning for votes. The way to do that is simple, but not easy.

Will 2014 see the contraction of space to play become an election issue?

Will 2014 see the contraction of space to play become an election issue?

We need to promote awareness within the electorate of the value and importance of play and play provision; highlight the plight of the many children living with play deprivation; educate voters about how this has come about and its direct link to public policy; make a cohesive, evidence-based case – including the economic one – for the policies that would turn the tide; and we need to make allies in these policy asks from across the spectrum, without diluting or compromising our core aims.

How the play movement in England plans to do this is less clear. Playwork – that uniquely British approach which has so progressed our understanding of the nature of play, the role of the adult and the importance of the play space – is under the cosh. The revenue budgets necessary to sustain staffed provision are disappearing. Adventure playgrounds are being torn down or turned into something else. Playwork courses are being closed. Equally worrying in the longer-term (Skillsactive’s Register of Playwork Professionals notwithstanding) playwork does not seem well represented, if at all, in whatever policy fora remain open to us as a sector.

For my part, I plan, among other things, to increase the number of posts to this site. A modest contribution to the cause, perhaps, but we will all need to pump up the volume if we are to once again plant the child’s right to play in the minds of our would-be leaders as an issue worthy of their serious consideration.

If you share my concerns, and my ambitions for a play policy for England – or find any value at all in what you read here – you can help by sharing a link to the site through your own networks and social media.

Happy New Year – and thanks for reading.

Adrian

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