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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UK planning policy mainly fails children, but London, Wales and Scotland begin to show the way

18 Sep

This summer’s publication of the Mayor of London’s proposed revisions to the London Plan was welcomed by advocates who have been pushing for a stronger policy on children and young people’s play, recreation, and independent mobility. Wider reaction to this part of the Plan, including from the UK government, signaled the ongoing influence of the capital; but will national policy follow suit?

The London Plan’s already relatively progressive approach to children and young people’s play and recreation is now to be further improved: to recognise their need for a wider range of spaces and opportunities; to ensure play areas offer real play value, with elements of risk and challenge designed in rather than out; and to afford greater independent mobility for children and young people, to break out of the sedentary, screen-based lifestyles that have become commonplace in the digital era.


The revised plan will retain innovative supplementary planning guidance first introduced in 2005-6, with its qualitative standards, and minimum spatial requirement of 10 sqm per child for play areas in new developments. Also retained is the recommendation that London boroughs should work across departments to coordinate area-wide play strategies: the approach that was adopted in England, by the UK government, for the world’s first national play strategy (2008).

Most eye-catching of all, however, certainly as far as media observers are concerned, the draft London Plan now specifies that play areas ‘should not be segregated by tenure’. This is a clear response to the worrying incidence of children from social housing being excluded from communal play areas in mixed developments.

Announcing the change, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, told the Guardian, “It is disgraceful that children who live in the same development would ever be prevented from playing together … The policies in my draft new London Plan are absolutely clear that new developments should be inclusive to all”.

Examination in public

Those of us who gave evidence at the London Plan’s Examination in Public may feel some gratification that our efforts on this occasion have received a positive response, but the real credit for this bold stance by the Mayor should more deservingly go to Louise Whitely, the parent of young children at the Old Baylis School development in south London, who  campaigned alongside her friends and neighbours for two years, to force the estate managers to honour the developers’ description of a ‘child-friendly’ estate; and Harriet Grant, the freelance journalist who brought the story to national attention via the Guardian, when a wall was erected to keep children from the social housing units out of the communal play space.

This was a narrative that captured public attention, highlighting a clear injustice in relatable, human-interest, terms, compelling policymakers to act; and not just in London. James Brokenshire, the (soon to be ex-) Communities Secretary, added the Government’s support for “planning and national rules that are there are properly upheld … (to end) segregation because of the nature of the home you live in”. It will now be up to his successor, Robert Jenrick, to deliver on that pledge.

Advocating for children’s rights in the built environment is challenging in the UK, where the absence of full adoption into UK (or Scots) law of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) means there is no statutory basis for rights-respecting policy. This is despite it being ratified by the government in 1991.

New research

But what does a more in-depth analysis tell us about UK planning policy and children’s rights? New research by Jenny Wood, of Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, and the Mayor’s design champion, architect Dinah Bornat, is assessing exactly that. While the full report is not due until the Autumn, the early findings seem to confirm the sense that children are most notable in national planning policy across the UK by their absence.

When mentioning them at all, planning documents most often refer to children either in the context of a list of protected minorities (usually in advice notes or documents with a lower standing in the hierarchy of planning than main policy documents), or as a kind of appendage to the default adult population, as in ‘people with children’, as though children do not have their own agency or distinct needs.

The research indicates that in recent years, of the four UK nations, Wales has had the most child-friendly planning policy. Whilst the assertions in the above paragraph still hold true for Wales, the latest Planning Policy Wales (PPW) was released in December 2018, and now aligns with the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act, 2015, to embrace the concept that people-centred placemaking is a route to wellbeing. Children’s rights also form the basis of child-focused legislation in Wales, including a duty on local authorities to assess and develop plans for a sufficiency of play opportunities for all children. With appropriate ‘linking-up’ of all these policy areas and faithful implementation, Wales has the greatest potential for child-friendly planning at present.

Play sufficiency

Current Scottish policy has been less child-friendly than in Wales and takes a predominantly economic focus. However, the recently completed stage 3 of the Planning (Scotland) Bill, includes measures that will give the most protection to children as a specific group of any national planning system. This should be through a statutory right to participate in the process of developing local development plans, and through planning authorities being required to produce ‘Play Sufficiency Assessments’ (emulating Wales). Child-specific legislation in Scotland is similar to that in Wales but currently weaker. However, the Scottish Government is currently consulting on how to integrate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots Law.

Seeking recognition for children’s rights within English planning policy has seemed particularly difficult since the abandonment of extensive government guidance in 2010-11, which had begun to prioritise children and young people’s need for more space as part of its long-term strategy to reverse the trend towards ‘battery-reared children’. Many practitioners believe the development imperative of the slimline National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) overrides design issues, to the detriment of the young, especially in the lower socio-economic groups. The research confirms that the NPPF is very weak on children as a specific group. Child-friendly aspirant local authorities have no national guidance for the task. Nevertheless, a number of English councils have embraced the concept, some with the UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative, some independently.

In Northern Ireland, there is presently little protection for children at the national planning policy level, but the Department for Environment in the process of looking at child friendly planning, and the Belfast Healthy Cities initiative has the longest standing child-friendly city approach of any UK city.

Cautious optimism

The UK clearly has a long way to go to integrate the UN’s Habitat declarations that children’s rights are a responsibility of both national and local government, and that the built environment has an important role to play. However, the London Plan revisions, the recent breakthrough in Scotland, the long experience of Belfast, and the progressive, rights-based approach to children’s play in Wales, each give grounds for cautious optimism.

A survey of 3,000 homeowners by the UK Green Building Council found that a neighbourhood where children can play outside was a bigger selling point than having a south-facing garden, or even the prospect of property value appreciation per se. Making  planning policy work for children and young people – shaping a built environment where they can gather and play equally, move around independently and enjoy the right to roam that older generations took for granted – is not only an obligation under of the UNCRC; it makes sound economic sense too.

Adrian Voce and Jenny Wood

Adrian Voce is president of the European Network for Child Friendly Cities, and the author of Policy for Play: responding to children’s forgotten right (Policy Press, 2015)

Jenny Wood is Co-founder and Chair of the Board at A Place in Childhood and a Research Associate in the Institute for Social Policy, Housing and Equalities Research (I-SPHERE) at Heriot-Watt University.

Jenny Wood’s research with Dinah Bornat is funded by the Royal Town Planning Institute and will be published in the Autumn of 2019.

Adrian Voce, Jenny Wood, and Dinah Bornat will each be speaking at Towards the Child Friendly City: children’s rights in the built environment, a major conference in Bristol City Hall, on 27-29 November, 2019. Full details here


Welsh playwork trainer qualification now offered in England

20 Aug

A collaboration of the Playwork Foundation and Play Wales has resulted in the Award in Delivering Dynamic Playwork Training (ADDaPT) being made available in England. Ali Wood reports.

Are you a playwork trainer or have offered playwork training?  In England, the only playwork qualifications currently available are in the form of apprenticeships, and take-up is small; especially as there is no legal requirement for qualified playwork staff (unlike the rest of the UK). A few training providers are still managing to offer short playwork training courses locally, but gone are the days when playwork training and qualifications were widely available and free.

The Playwork Foundation has, therefore, for some time been liaising with Play Wales and with Agored Cymru – a Welsh awarding organisation who now offers various playwork qualifications that have been designed by Play Wales and are delivered across Wales, to see if the Welsh playwork qualifications can be made available in England.  In order to ensure that only occupationally competent trainers deliver playwork qualifications that are inspiring and participative, Play Wales has also developed a short qualification for playwork trainers – the Award in Delivering Dynamic Playwork Training (ADDaPT) – which they have to undertake if they wish to deliver any playwork qualifications.

As a result of our deliberations, we are really pleased to announce it is now going to be possible for Welsh playwork qualifications to be delivered in England!  An ADDapT course has therefore been arranged for English playwork trainers in order that they may be able to offer and deliver any or all of the other playwork qualifications available in Wales.  To be accepted onto the ADDaPT course, trainers must already hold a teaching qualification suitable for working in Further Education and be able to show they are occupationally competent in playwork.  The ADaPT course is three days in length and provides learners with an opportunity to explore interactive and playful techniques to use when delivering playwork training and qualifications.  Participants must also complete an assessment workbook so that they can become an accepted Agored playwork trainer.

This is a great opportunity for English playwork trainers who could then offer short level 2 playwork qualifications that have not been possible in England until now.  The first ADDaPT course has been arranged to take place at Gloucester University on Saturdays 2nd November, 11th November, and 7th December.  The course includes content on:

  • Understanding the importance of meeting a range of learning needs and preferences
  • Understanding a range of playful and participative methods for teaching playwork
  • Designing a programme of learning for playwork
  • Reflecting on own practice

We can also tell you that the ADDaPT itself is an exceptional training course that really inspires and excites playwork trainers and is a professional development opportunity in itself.

Is this for you? There will be a cost of approximately £250 per participant (this could be a little more or a bit less depending on numbers attending) which covers the costs of the ADDaPT trainer, the resources and internal quality assurance.

Ali Wood

Ali Wood is a playwork trainer, researcher, and author. She is a trustee of the Playwork Foundation.

If you are interested in the ADDaPT training, please contact Ali Wood on as soon as possible for further information and/or to reserve a place!

Book now for Bristol conference to receive early-bird delegate rate!

26 Jul

With only five days to go to get your hands on an early-bird ticket for Towards the Child Friendly City, I want to share five reasons for joining me and hundreds of other colleagues who are passionate about children’s rights in the built environment at this exciting international conference.

  1. Be inspired by a wide range of expert speakers, presenters, and panelists on different aspects of the conference themes. Speakers so far confirmed include Dinah Bornat, Tim Gill, Wendy Russell, Sudeshna Chatterjee, Jeff Risom and Alice Ferguson. Full details can be found here
  2. Explore and discuss the latest research, policy initiatives and practice innovations from the range of sectors impacting on children in the urban environment.
  3. Make the most of the all-important networking opportunities of the conference dinner and reception, each included in the delegate ticket.
  4. Experience the wonderful city of Bristol, the home of some extraordinary child-friendly initiatives and environments
  5. Spend three wonderful days with like-minded people discovering and discussing how we can make the world’s cities the best places to live for our youngest citizens.

There are also 5 days left to respond to the call for papers for parallel workshop presentations.

Submit a paper here

Book your early bird tickets here

Hoping to see you in Bristol!

Adrian Voce
President, European Network for Child Friendly Cities

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

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!

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