Bristol to host international child-friendly city conference in November 2019

7 May

Bristol City Hall, venue for the conference.

The European Network for Child Friendly Cities has announced a new international conference, to be hosted by the English city of Bristol in November 2019.

Towards the Child Friendly City: children’s rights in the built environment, a three-day conference, will be held at Bristol City Hall and other locations in the city on 27-29 November.

The event will bring together academics, policymakers and practitioners from the range of sectors that shape public space and infrastructure, with advocates and activists working to promote children’s rights in their neighbourhoods, towns and cities.

The European Network, which curated the biennial Child in the City conferences until 2017, is working with Bristol City Council and a range of other partners to create an event that brings together the best of the international child-friendly city movement, hosted by a city committed to its aims. Specific themes for the conference will be announced soon, together with keynote speakers and a call for papers.

“Children and young people are taking centre stage in the urgent movement for more sustainable living; this conference is a chance for the built environment sectors – public and private – to show how they are responding”. 

Adrian Voce, current President of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities said:

“Children and young people are taking centre stage in the urgent movement for more sustainable living; this conference is a chance for the built environment sectors – public and private – to show how they are responding. It will be the first in our new series of independent events, fully controlled by the advocacy network itself, and aimed at raising the rights of children and young people on the policy agenda for towns and cities everywhere.

“We are really excited to be staging the event in Bristol, the home of some extraordinary child-friendly initiatives and environments. Children and young people are taking centre stage in the urgent movement for more sustainable living; this conference is a chance for the built environment sectors – public and private – to show how they are responding”.

Bristol, home of the modern street play movement. Photo: Playing Out CIC

Chair of the network’s scientific committee, the Swedish academic Dr Maria Nordström said:

“The role of children and young people in the lives of their communities, and how the built environment responds to them, has never been more important. That response should be based on the most current research and good practice, which is what we aim to showcase. We look forward to announcing an engaging programme of speakers, workshops and field-trips over the coming weeks, and to welcoming our worldwide network of colleagues to the beautiful city of Bristol in November“.

Bookings will be open soon. Put the date in your diary and watch this space for further updates, or enter your contact details below.


 

 

 

 

 


The European Network for Child Friendly Cities is an independent advocacy network of practitioners, academics and activists working alongside policymakers and public officials to promote children’s rights in towns and cities.
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Call for papers for Towards the Child friendly City, international conference, Bristol 2019

18 Jun

Towards the Child Friendly City
Children’s rights in the built environment

27-29 November, 2019
Bristol City Hall,
Bristol, UK


Delegates are invited to submit proposals for presentations, workshops or poster displays addressing the overall theme of the conference, children’s rights in the built environment.

In addition, submissions should address one of the following specific themes:

  1. Planning, housing, and the neighbourhood environment
  2. Activism and children’s voices
  3. The needs and rights of refugee and other migrant children
  4. Children’s mobility, travel, and transport

Submitted papers might address some of the suggested questions, or explore other issues relevant to the theme, supported in each case by relevant evidence.

Read the full Call for Papers here

Register for the conference here

 

Researching the influences on playwork

31 May

A research question: what influences playwork?

Playwork is an emerging profession based on an approach to working with children that privileges their play, the process of playing, and the provision of optimum environments for playing, above other considerations.

It is, in comparison to mainstream pedagogy certainly, a radical approach, with profoundly different perspectives and tenets to those found in the dominant discourses of child policy and children’s services.

But what are those perspectives and tenets? What is their evidence base? Do they amount to a cohesive praxis? Is there a recognisable and consistent playwork narrative? If so, how does it inform, and how is it informed by, other children’s rights narratives? Most pertinently, given the precarious situation of much of the playwork sector, after 8 years of austerity, does this narrative have resonance with policymakers and their electorates, or should the playwork field look to its future outside of public policy as such?

To help address some of these questions, I am researching the academic and other influences on playwork for a Masters dissertation. If you are in any way within the playwork field and would like to contribute, please complete a short survey here

Thank you!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dinah Bornat and Tim Gill to speak at Bristol conference

29 May

Playful Planet has announced the first confirmed speakers for its new conference.

Dinah Bornat is founder and co-director of ZCD Architects in East London, which is passionate about socially inclusive architecture and urban design. As well as being a design champion for the Mayor of London, Dinah has produced cutting-edge research on child-friendly cities, urban design, and participatory practice. Her most recent report, Neighbourhood design, working with children towards a child-friendly city (2019), is a must-read.

Tim Gill is the independent writer and consultant, whose book No Fear: Growing up in a risk-averse society was described by the New York Times as ‘a handbook for the movement for freer, riskier play’. Tim has recently been researching child-friendly urban planning in Canada and Europe as a fellow of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.

More speakers, a call for papers and further information will be announced here.

Early bird bookings are open now!

The conference is for all those engaged in research, policy and practice within the built environment sectors, and for practitioners and advocates working with children and young people to champion their rights as citizens and stakeholders in the public realm.

We hope to see you in Bristol!

Segregated play space is an abuse of children’s rights

28 Mar

‘She seems genuinely impressed when she hears about the freedom and control that children have here, and especially at the sense of community and social connection they exhibit: that this is their place, of which they are immensely proud. Before she moves on, The Princess Royal turns to me and says that these children, from the ‘deprived’ social housing estates in the looming shadow of Waterloo Station, seem to be enjoying the kind of childhood that many supposedly better-off children would relish’.

From Policy for Play, responding to children’s forgotten right
Adrian Voce (Policy Press, 2015)

Writing in the Guardian this week, Harriet Grant reports on what can only be described as a form of social apartheid, in the design of a small housing estate in London. The article relates how, in a new mixed development on the site of the old Lilian Baylis School in SE1, North Lambeth, children living in social housing are excluded from the supposedly ‘communal’ play areas, where access is exclusive to those from the privately-owned units.

The article has caused a media furore, with everyone from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to the Communities Secretary, James Brokenshire, decrying what architect Dinah Bornat, an expert on child-friendly housing, has called a shameful abuse of the planning process. Victoria Derbyshire’s daytime TV programme featured mums from each part of the estate, united in wanting all their children to be able to play together equally.

As of lunchtime today, the BBC was reporting that Henley Housing, the developer, has said it ‘has no objection to residents in the social housing estate accessing all the play areas’; it was ‘leading the way’ to find a ‘workable solution’. This was later confirmed by Grant in a follow-up to her Guardian story. The BBC reported that Warwick Estates, who manage the private part of the estate, however, are making no comment.

If they each think it’s wrong, who is responsible?

It is striking from Grant’s original piece how a variety of key players (no pun intended) – the designer, the developer, the council, the Mayor and the government – seem to agree (in the glare of media scrutiny anyway) that this segregation of children’s play space by home-ownership status is wrong. And yet there it is. If they each think it’s wrong, who is responsible? Dinah Bornat says she is still trying to get to the bottom of it. There has even been talk of a possible legal challenge by some housing law specialists and children’s rights advocacy groups.

My correspondence, going back to June last year, from one of the parents at Baylis Old School, reveals that the segregation of the play area is in fact only the latest instalment in a running battle at this site, between residents who understood from the marketing that they were moving into a genuinely child-friendly development, and the estate managers, for whom children’s play of any stripe seems to have been largely conceived as a nuisance to be policed.

Whether or not a ‘workable solution’ can be found for the Baylis Old School development (now it is in the media spotlight), the wider questions are: how common is this, and how can it be prevented? How can children’s right to play together in the common spaces of their immediate neighbourhoods – a feature of childhood as ancient as society itself, and believed by scientists to be a key to our evolution as a species – be better protected? Is this not a failure of public policy, wherein children’s right to play receives scant recognition, and no support, in defiance of various UN reports criticising the government for its dereliction?

I want to suggest four distinct policy measures that would make such an occurrence ­– and the wider disregard for children’s rights in public space –much less likely in the future.

1.Reform national planning policy

As the retreat of children from public space became a growing cause of concern through the 90s and 2000s, so the need for a greater role for planning policy to provide guidance on children’s play space became more and more accepted, with major planning documents such as the first London Plan and the government’s National Planning Policy Guidance 17 on Recreational Space, each highlighting the need for planners and developers to include children’s play within the overall concept and masterplan for any residential development.

At the time of the change of government in 2010, Play England had been commissioned to produce specific planning guidance that was to have been published by the Department for Communities and Local Government. It never saw the light of day and, as everyone now knows, the entire suite of national planning policy documents was soon torn up and replaced by one slim volume. It seems clear that The National Planning Policy Framework is only fit for purpose if that purpose is to allow the concept and design of the public realm to be led by developers. Brought in at a time of perceived crisis for the economy, it is now surely time for a review.

2. Reinstate children’s play as a matter of government policy

Would Lambeth council have allowed the developer at the Baylis Old School site to alter the plans and create a segregated play area if children’s play had been higher on their political radar? Perhaps, but, it would have been less likely. When there was a Secretary of State for Children, with a serious national play policy, including a 10-year strategy and a £390m funding programme (including £155m of lottery money), local authorities were required to have a current local play strategy and play partnership, based squarely on principles and understandings about children’s right to play. Children’s play in England since 2010 has all but disappeared from the policy agenda other than as a tool for early learning and will continue to be neglected by cash-strapped local authorities until there is again some national leadership on the issue.

3. Adopt the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into UK Law

It has been both heartening and a bit depressing to see the parents from both sides of this unwanted divide citing children’s right to play equally, as per the UNCRC, in their campaign to end this terrible practice. Heartening, because we are often told there is not much appetite for children’s rights among the British public; the outpouring of sympathy for these children, and the stance of their parents suggests otherwise. Depressing because because the UK, (or, more particularly, the UK government, and therefore England) is one of the more reluctant signatories to the convention. The UK is one of the very few developed-world governments not to have adopted the convention into national legislation, ranked a lowly 187th by the Kids Rights Index which monitors the degree of integration of children’s rights into national policy and legislation. This is why finding a viable legal challenge to this shameful decision may be harder than it ought to be.

4. Designate London and other conurbations Child Friendly Cities

The UN’s Habitat conferences of the 90s highlighted the particular threats to the wellbeing of children and young people by increasing urbanisation, population growth and poor long-term planning by municipal government. UNICEF’s Child Friendly Cities Initiative is designed to ensure that local authorities, regardless of national government policy, fully adopt and implement the UNCRC within all relevant policies and processes. Very few British councils have signed up for the UNICEF initiative – many citing austerity and the cost of the programme – but some, like Bristol, have nevertheless declared their commitment to being a child friendly city and are developing plans and strategies accordingly. A child-friendly city is not just a city where child-friendly design principles are more widely adopted, but one where, as a cornerstone of the children’s rights ethos, these principles are applied equally to all children. 15 years after City Hall hosted the second international child-friendly city conference, Sadiq Khan should formally commit the capital to becoming a recognised Child Friendly City. His current London Plan revision is the perfect opportunity.


As a playworker in the 1980s, I had the privilege of working at an adventure playground in the same part of London as the Baylis Old School development. Like all such places (now sadly diminishing in number), it had its own unique character and culture, reflecting that of the local children who used it. One abiding memory is of how proud they were, not just of the playground (which they helped to build), but of their ‘manor’: the social housing estates in the shadow of Waterloo Station. Applying for grants for our project from the various funding programmes for deprived inner-city areas was frequently met with their scorn. “We’re not deprived; this ain’t a deprived area. Flaming cheek!’ would be one of the more printable reactions. As my story of the visit by our patron Princess Anne relates, there was support for this view from some unlikely sources.

Whatever else was going on in their lives, in one very important regard these children were indeed far from deprived. The adventure playground, and the wider public spaces surrounding it, were theirs to explore from an early age. With no gardens of their own, children from as young as 4-5 would be outside on a daily basis, in groups of siblings and friends – playing, making friends, getting up to mischief, growing up. The adventure playground was their place, but in those (pre-childcare registration) days of open-access, ‘drop-in-drop-out’ attendance, the wider public space of their estates was also their domain.

These kids, like so many who grew up before the outdoor world had become a no-go area for them, had the richest of play lives: meaning they grew up learning the physical and social competence, self-confidence and resourcefulness that only comes from having time and space to play, away from adult direction, structures and rules; immersing themselves, daily, in their own culture and society; making decisions and taking risks for themselves. In so doing they also developed the ‘place attachment’ so important to identity and citizenship.

Like the parents at Baylis Old School today, the adults in the lives of those children in the North Lambeth of the 1980s – indeed society as a whole, even if by a kind of benign neglect – understood the importance of their right to play, and that this right was for every child, regardless of where they live.

Adrian Voce
Image: Marc Rusines

Adrian Voce is the current President of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities. He is a trustee of the Playwork Foundation and an associate board member of Playing Out. His book, Policy for Play was published in 2015.

This article was first published by the Playwork Foundation

It was originally entitled: THE RIGHT TO PLAY IS FOR EVERY CHILD, REGARDLESS OF WHERE THEY LIVE.

These 10 policy steps could give children back the freedom to play

5 Oct

Public anxiety about children’s excessive use of digital media and computer games has reignited the debate about ‘battery-reared’ children. Adrian Voce argues that the retreat from real-world, outdoor play began before the ubiquity of tablets, smartphones and social media. Policymakers should be focussing on how the built environment and public space responds to children’s need to play.

Eight years after the abandonment of a national play strategy for England, children’s play has again come under the spotlight. Commentators and public figures, including Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, and Health Select Committee chairperson, Sarah Wollaston MP, have commented on the phenomenon of “battery-reared” children and how this may be connected to the childhood obesity epidemic and the rising incidence of poor mental health in young people.

Such commentary reflects a growing public anxiety that sedentary, screen-based entertainments have come to replace real-world play as the predominant leisure activity for children. Others fear that social media has become more significant to many young people’s friendship groups than spending physical time together.

While such anxieties may or may not be justified in themselves, the decline in children’s outdoor play began long before the digital revolution; its causes lie more with changes to the built environment and public space than in the screens children turn to when they are denied access to it.

“The decline in children’s outdoor play began long before the digital revolution”

Children need no reason to play; it is simply how they enjoy being alive and express who they are. Scientifically, though, there are very good reasons for it.

Playing promotes positive feelings and is crucial to children’s resilience and emotional development. Because they are in control, it enables children to learn how to navigate the world, encounter and manage risk, be adaptable and resourceful, make choices and build relationships. Play is a key to attachment, creativity, motivation and self-confidence. The fact that it also involves more physical activity than most sports is incidental.

Most parents know that children need a good amount of space to play, and the freedom to enjoy it; that a child playing in the right outdoor environment is a child fulfilled. Parents don’t need public health data to tell them that after playing out with their friends, children come home exercised and contented, ready for a healthy meal and a good night’s sleep.

“Parents are increasingly reluctant to let children play out unsupervised”

Nevertheless, parents are increasingly reluctant to let children play out unsupervised. The challenge, then, is to understand why, and to address these barriers and concerns. Solutions should be bespoke to each community, but there are some common themes and principles. Here, not as an exhaustive list, are ten suggestions for play policy.

1) Stop blaming parents

Parents’ permission is key, but changes in parenting practices alone can’t account for the decline in play opportunities. Whatever else we want for our kids, we firstly need them to be safe from serious harm. With road traffic accidents still a major cause of death to young people, and rising levels of air pollution and violent crime, the reluctance to let children outside unaccompanied isn’t simply paranoid parenting. It is up to public policy to reassure parents that their children will be safe.

Then there is the disproportionate emphasis on formal education, exams and structured “enrichment activity”. It is small wonder if many parents have forgotten that not everything a child needs to learn can be “delivered”.

2) End the domination of traffic

Pedestrianised areas, home zones and play streets should be the norm for urban communities. Where this is not deemed possible, the 20mph speed limit, while helping to reduce road traffic fatalities, is still too fast for children to play outside. For residential streets this should be reduced to 10 mph or less, with more shared space to remove the default right of way for vehicles.

3) Support and promote street play

Redesigning streets will take many years and significant capital investment to implement to scale, but temporary street closures are an affordable short-term measure  — closing off roads to traffic and encouraging children to make use of local space. Local authorities should designate named officers to provide such support, and work with community groups and parent volunteers to grow the number and frequency of regular street play days. The UK’s Playing Out network demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach, but it will take public policy to scale it up.

4) Design for play

The play sufficiency principle pioneered in Wales should be embedded into the planning and design principles for public space, housing and the wider built environment. Recent research by ZCD architects, including the Mayor of London’s design advocate Dinah Bornat (also a Playing Out volunteer) shows how. Policymakers and planners in London and beyond should be studying her report.

5) Integrate playable space throughout the public realm

Space to play should not be defined by fences, safety surfaces and standardised equipment, but integrated throughout a liveable, intergenerational landscape that includes unplanned space that children can populate and animate with their play. Valuing and responding to children’s play in the conception and design of public space is vital — including supporting their participation in such projects wherever possible.

6) Build adventure playgrounds

In dense urban environments, traditional adventure playgrounds are a tried-and-tested solution. They should be bespoke to each community and staffed by qualified playworkers, with their uniquely child-centred and permissive approach. Such spaces have evolved over several decades in some of the world’s busiest cities, to become recognised by many researchers as the ideal form of dedicated play space, but they are under threat from short-termism and austerity; their numbers in decline since the crash. Enlightened policy would protect those that remain and set out a programme to enable more to be built.

7) Ensure daycare is good for children, not just parents and employers

For many children in the modern world, traditional play time — after school and in the holidays — is spent in day care. Until deregulation by the Coalition government, these services were run by qualified playworkers and had to include playable outdoor space. Creating child-friendly neighbourhood space will do little for the children who spend up to eight hours a day in school and childcare, but reintroducing appropriate standards and a qualified workforce to after-school and holiday services would provide them with the play opportunities they need.

8) Open up school grounds for neighbourhood play

Schools are by far the greatest recipient of public funding for children and yet are massively under-utilised as community assets, being gated and out-of-bounds for all who do not attend, even when school is out. School grounds, if not school buildings, should be made available as playable community spaces, especially in neighbourhoods with limited access to green or open space.

9) Develop safe routes to schools, parks and play areas.

Mobility is vital: child-friendly, “playable” neighbourhoods have safe, accessible and familiar routes to give children the connectivity that adults take for granted. More cycle lanes, footbridges, subways and off-road footpaths joining children’s homes to suitable spaces are a start. Animating those spaces with playable designs, community art and landscape features would transform most neighbourhoods for children.

10) Adopt a national strategy for play, and make local responses a statutory duty

Many of the suggestions I have outlined are within the remit of local government, but others are dependent on national policy too. Education, planning, public health, law-and-order and transport each have a bearing on decisions that can either constrain or enable children’s play opportunities. The final suggestion then is that a cabinet minister — perhaps a secretary of state for children — must be given overall responsibility for strategic, cross-cutting play policy, to lead and coordinate cohesive changes across each relevant sector, and at all levels and in each respective department of government. This should include legislation similar to the Welsh play sufficiency duty. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2013) has made clear that children’s right to play is a responsibility of government under the 1989 Convention; requiring legislation, planning and funding as necessary. The time is ripe for the UK government to take that responsibility seriously.

The Mayor of Bogotá, Enrique Peñalosa famously said, “if a city is good for children, it will be good for everybody else”. The child-friendly city begins on every child’s doorstep. The policy challenge is making it easier for children to cross that threshold and go out to play.

Adrian Voce

An edited version of this article was first published by apolitical.co

Policy for play needs an urgent rethink

19 Sep

Photo: M. Conway

Responding to a welcome report from the Children’s Commissioner on the need to do more to support children’s play, Adrian Voce says leadership – and a new long-term plan – must come from government.

The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has called for play to ‘make a comeback’ as a key to combatting the increasingly sedentary lifestyles that mean today’s children are ‘the least active ever’, with profound consequences for their health.

Of course play has never really gone away. Children will play in all but the most constrained or distressed circumstances; it is in their nature. A deeply instinctive impulse, integral to our developmental and evolutionary processes, children’s play will be a part of the human story for as long as our species exists.

What Longfield is rightly commenting on, in her report, Playing Out, is the radical diminution, over recent decades, of the space and opportunity for children to play as fully and with as much freedom as they need – and the absence, since 2010, of any meaningful policy response. She is right to be concerned, and advocates will welcome her call for play to be put back on the policy agenda, perhaps with just three caveats.

The first is that to conceive of children’s play as primarily a vehicle for their physical activity, runs the risk of designing interventions to favour certain types of play over others. This may be more damaging than it sounds.

Play is not simply about exercise

Although it is notoriously difficult to define, some things are broadly agreed across the wide range of play studies. One is that it is characterised by children being in control. Another is that there is a wide range of play types, not all of them involving vigorous physical activity, and that children derive most benefit from being able to move in and out these at will.

“Given space and permission, children will tend to exercise more in playing than almost any other activity, including most sports”

While it is true that, given enough space and permission, children will tend to exercise more in playing than in almost any other activity, including most sports (Mackett and Paskins, 2008), this is precisely because they are free to express themselves as they will, following their own often random and spontaneous agendas. As any parent or teacher knows, children are naturally energetic; left to their own devices, in the right environment, their innate ebullience is all the motivation they need to use their bodies to the full.

Yet seeing play as primarily a form of physical activity – and increased opportunities for it therefore as a way to raise exercise levels – can lead to programmes and services that inhibit the all-important element of choice. A study from Canada (Alexander et al, 2014) warns that such an approach can have the effect of narrowly defining play in a way that disregards much of its real nature, ‘reshaping meanings of play for children (with) unintended consequences for their wellbeing’, by privileging future the outcomes of play over the immediate benefits of playing for its own sake.

This is important, not least because, as Longfield points out, playing is vital not just for children’s ongoing and future health, but for their here and now mental and emotional wellbeing too  – not to mention its key role in their creativity and development. Any policy response must be careful not to make the ancient, instinctive impulse of children to play, purely instrumental to addressing the current obesity crisis. This will tend to lead to programmes that are more about sport than play – great for sporty children, but missing the essential point that if we simply allow children the time and space to play as they want, they will get all the exercise they need, as an incidental benefit to its true purpose: the simple enjoyment of being fully alive.

Workforce investment

The second caveat to the ‘Playing Out’ report is that although there is a strong call for greater investment in play services ­ – after-school centres, holiday play schemes, adventure playgrounds and play rangers – it does not mention the regulatory framework for such provision, which has in recent years seen the need for standards, including a trained and qualified workforce, virtually abandoned.

Supervising large groups of children and supporting their opportunities to play requires skills and underpinning knowledge quite different from those required in the classroom. Until the early part of this decade, such a role was increasingly the domain of trained and qualified playworkers – bringing the permissive, enabling and pastoral quality of care, and the in-depth understanding of play and play environments that is needed. Without the playwork approach, out-of-school provision for many children is more about day care – a convenience for parents and employers – than it is about their time and space to play. Any investment in extending provision must be accompanied by a new look at regulations, and an accompanying workforce strategy.

The contrary societal trends highlighted in the commissioner’s report – ‘busy lives, busy roads, fewer communal spaces’ – are not new. 10 years ago the phenomenon of ‘shrinking childhoods’ in the UK gave rise to the most serious attempt yet by national policymakers to address children’s need for space to play.

The Play Strategy for England (2008) was a bold plan, not just to increase the provision and raise the quality of dedicated play spaces, but to embed within long-term policies for planning, housing, traffic and open space, the need for children to live in safe, child-friendly neighbourhoods, where they would be attracted to play outside with their friends on a daily basis – and their parents would feel confident enough to let them. This 10-year strategy was abandoned after only two years, as part of the coalition government’s austerity measures; children’s play as a policy issue in England has been sidelined ever since.

“The most effective initiative in supporting children’s play over recent years has been a parent-led campaign”

The third note of caution in welcoming what is a generally strong report is therefore to do with leadership and drivers for change. The report recognises the complex, crosscutting nature of the issue when it recommends that ‘play provision should be strategically planned as part of each area’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment’, yet it does not acknowledge the reality that without either a national policy framework or a dedicated funding stream for children’s play, many local authorities, in these still straitened times for the public sector, will ignore such advice.

Finally, the commissioner’s report rightly points to the key role of parents but offers them little more than a reference to some ‘child-centred apps to help encourage children to do more’, and her own ‘Digital 5-a-Day Guide’. In fact, the most effective initiative in supporting children’s play over recent years has been a parent-led campaign that owes very little to digital media or official guidance

Playing Out, begun nearly ten years ago by two mothers in Bristol, has galvanised a new street play movement that is inspiring play advocates around the world and yet struggles for funding in the UK, in spite of its rapidly growing network of local street play activists.

It is not just the temporary street closure model that makes Playing Out so powerful. What makes it so potent (and the reason I agreed to become an associate board member of this not-for-profit) is that it is a parent-to-parent network. Having used the same name for her report – and highlighting in it the model they have pioneered – it would be good to see Anne Longfield’s report leading to some sustained support for this organisation and its work.

A need for leadership

The Children’s Commissioner has shone a much-needed light on a vitally important but sadly neglected area of public policy. For policymakers to continue to ignore it will be to the long-term detriment of generations of increasingly screen-bound children. But if this or any future government is serious about tackling the issue it will need to provide both leadership and sustained commitment to a long-term vision for a genuinely child-friendly world – a vision that engages parents and children themselves in its realisation.

An All Party Parliamentary Group reporting on children’s play has called for a cabinet minister for children, not just education, and for a new national strategy to address the play challenge. It has also called for the UK government to emulate that of Wales, which has placed a statutory duty on local government to plan for all children to have a ‘sufficiency’ of opportunities to play. Any fresh approach to policy should take a serious look these proposals.

‘Play on prescription’ may be an imaginative contribution to the obesity strategy, but the universal need for children to have time and space to play on a daily basis needs a strategy in its own right.

Adrian Voce

 Adrian Voce is an associate board member of Playing Out CiC and a board member of the Playwork Foundation. This opinion piece is written in his own right.

An edited version of this article first appeared on apolitical.co

 References

Alexander, S, Frohlich, K, & Fusco, C (2014), ‘Playing for health? Revisiting health promotion to examine the emerging public health position on children’s play’, Health Promotion International, 29, 1: 155

Mackett, R and Paskins, J, (2008), Children’s physical activity: The contribution of playing and walking, Children and Society, 22: 345-7

 

 

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