Publication - Strategy/plan

Play Strategy For Scotland: Learning About Play - Investigating Play Through Relevant Qualifications In Scotland

Published: 26 Oct 2015
Part of:
Communities and third sector
ISBN:
9781785447761

An examination of the content of the main qualifications in Scotland, for those working in early learning and childcare, schools, out of school and holiday care services for children. We wanted to discover how much play is included from level 5 to post degree level, and to see if more coverage was needed.

295 page PDF

2.3 MB

295 page PDF

2.3 MB

Contents
Play Strategy For Scotland: Learning About Play - Investigating Play Through Relevant Qualifications In Scotland
Section E: Play In Education

295 page PDF

2.3 MB

Section E: Play In Education

PLAY IN EDUCATION

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire" ~W. B. Yeats

Teachers in Scotland are required to register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS), and follow Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and associated guidance documents. In addition, there has been a recent and thorough revision of all teaching qualifications through the publication of Teaching Scotland's Future (Scottish Government, 2011), often known as the "Donaldson Report".

Therefore to place teacher training courses in context, while also examining where play is covered in such materials, the first section (Part 1) investigates the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) standards for teacher registration, and other standards and professional development support through the GTCS; and introduces Teaching Scotland's Future (Scottish Government, 2011). Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), (Scottish Executive, 2004), with associated in depth guidance documents, is then covered in the next section (Part 2), while Education Scotland and Scottish Government guidance on early learning and childcare are reviewed in Part 3.

In terms of the remit to examine the contents of teacher training to assess how play, especially freely chosen play, is covered in teacher training, the contents of all of the (often very new) initial teacher training courses have been reviewed via the more detailed information on the Universities' respective websites. This information is not reproduced here in full in tables (as per other qualifications), as the review of the course information did not yield any specific references to play or development.

There is a summary table where new teaching qualifications and university providers are set out, and direct hyperlinks to these University website pages are in the references section.

The Universities of Stirling, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, responded to the online survey produced after the initial lack of response from teacher training qualification providers (see methodology). These results, as well as that of a small focus group conducted with teachers and assistants are included in Part 4. This section also provides in-depth information on one Open University module featuring play in training for teaching assistants.

In Part 5, Education Scotland resources and materials, especially on play and active learning (Part 5) (including outdoor learning resources via Ground for Learning), are outlined in the appendices section with hyperlinks as valuable professional development resources for teachers, and indeed, the wider early learning and childcare, and out of school care and play providers.

Part 6 provides an analysis of the findings, which will be summarised for the discussion section.

1. General Teaching Council Scotland Registration and Professional standards

Teachers in Scotland register with the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS), which became a fully independent body from government in 2012 (GTCS, interview, Tom Hamilton, 2014), and it is therefore now the arbitrator of registration and professional standards for the teaching workforce in Scotland. Probationary and qualified teachers have to ensure that they know and understand the specific standards set out for their professional conduct, for provisional and thereafter, full registration (GTCS, 2012).

The standards were updated in 2012 and are part of a new overall suite of standards, which include: The Standard for Career-Long Professional Learning and Standards for Leadership and Management (GTCS, 2012). These updates were in response to government guidance associated with Teaching Scotland's Future (Scottish Government, 2011), however, the registration standards will be reviewed in five years and it will be up to GTCS as an independent body to set them then. It is also important to note that the standards and indeed the curriculum are not only about academic attainment but are about the holistic wellbeing of children and young people.

This framework of the Standards for Registration underpins the content of teacher training and learning placements for students and probationary teachers and is also: "a baseline standard of professional competence which applies to teachers throughout their careers "(GTCS, 2012, p.3).

The professional values and principles, which underpin all of the student and teacher standards, under social justice, integrity, respect, trust and professional commitment includes:

"Respecting the rights of all learners as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and their entitlement to be included in decisions regarding their learning experiences and have all aspects of their well-being developed and supported" (GTCS, 2012, p. 5).

There are expected commitment to skills, knowledge and values, as set out in the standards for registration, including; knowledge and application of the curriculum, pedagogical theories and practice, planning and engagement with the learning and wider community, research and professional enquiry, professional skills and abilities, teaching and learning, classroom organisation and management, pupil assessment and professional reflection and communication.

Within the standards, there are also links to wider policies such as:

"Have an understanding of current, relevant legislation and guidance such the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act (2000), Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, the Equality Act 2010 and GIRFEC" (GTCS, 2012, p. 10). In terms of their professional responsibilities, which includes Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC). (Scottish Government, 2008a).

It is clear it is not just about academic achievement in looking after the holistic needs of children and young people: "Know how to promote and support the cognitive, emotional, social and physical wellbeing of all learners, and demonstrate a commitment to raising all learners' expectations of themselves" (GTCS, 2012, p. 8).

There is also growing recognition of learning beyond the classroom "Use outdoor learning opportunities, including direct experiences of nature and other learning within and beyond the school boundary" (GTCS, 2012, p. 16).

Another interesting feature of the work of GTS in implementing the recommendations of Teaching Scotland's Future (Scottish Government, 2011) is the requirement now for engagement in Professional Update for all registered teachers from August 2014. As part of this process, GTCS accredits courses and gives professional recognition awards to teachers achieving recognised standards in the topic. For example, in September 2014, GTCS presented professional recognition in outdoor learning awards to teachers trained and developing good practice in this area (Teaching Scotland, 2014). In our discussions with GTCS about the play research topic, it became clear that this, professional recognition route, is a potentially fruitful area of development, as are the Masters level teaching courses, especially those in faculties also delivering Childhood Practice qualifications, in also perhaps sharing core modules on play related topics.

2. The Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Executive, 2004)

The Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), (Scottish Executive, 2004) is the Scottish Curriculum for children and young people aged 3 -18. There are related policies, documents, online materials and constantly evolving sources of learning and teaching materials, with continued professional development resources, to support reflective, evidence-based practice. CfE has a broader scope than specific academic outcomes in that it is concerned with a holistic approach to the learning and development of children and young people aged 3-18 in Scotland. As such, it links closely with other national interrelated policies on children and their families, for example, Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC), (Scottish Government, 2008a) and the Early Years Framework (Scottish Government, 2009).

CfE is intended to foster four capacities in all children and young people: as successful learners, confident individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.

CfE covers a broad general education up to the end of S3 followed by a senior phase from S4 to S6. There is an emphasis on inter-disciplinary learning, skills development and encouraging personal achievement.

"Curriculum for Excellence aims to achieve a transformation in education in Scotland by providing a coherent, more flexible and enriched curriculum from 3 to 18. The curriculum includes the totality of experiences which are planned for children and young people through their education, wherever they are being educated" (Education Scotland (website), 2014).

In terms of this play training and qualifications investigation, where CfE is relevant is in the fact that this is the framework for learning used in early learning and childcare (what used to be called pre-school or early education), from age three, and then in school, right through the primary and secondary school years, up to age eighteen.

CfE experience and outcomes indicators: (Education Scotland website, accessed 2014)

In CfE, the terms 'experiences and outcomes' recognises the importance of the quality and nature of the learning experience in developing attributes and capabilities and in achieving active engagement, motivation and depth of learning. An outcome represents what is to be achieved.

The experiences and outcomes are set out in lines of development, which describe progress in learning. They are organised into the eight curriculum area; Expressive arts, Health and wellbeing, Languages, Mathematics, Religious and moral education, Sciences, Social studies and Technologies.

Figure 3: Health and wellbeing across learning: responsibilities of all

Source: Education Scotland: Experiences and Outcomes (undated)

Figure 3: Health and wellbeing across learning: responsibilities of all

This is the SHANARRI Wellbeing Wheel Framework for Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) (Scottish Government, 2008a), where the 4 learning indicators in the centre here are often usually placed in the outer circle. While it can be argued that Play contributes to all of the outcomes in this framework, what is significant here is, as an official CfE indicator, Play is considered under "Active", so is therefore part of all of the experiences and outcomes for health, which stretch across the curriculum at every age and stage.

Looking across all of the experiences and outcomes indicators under each curriculum area, it is clear that usually play based or active learning is more prevalent in those indicators set out for either or both the Early Years (3-5) or First, usually P1. CfE does recognise that some children may be at these stages for longer, dependent on their needs.

Right across CfE in the overarching health and wellbeing and the specific subject areas, play is also listed in overarching measures, in terms of active learning in the subjects for all ages.

Examples of approaches are below, with examples from the indicators.

Overarching principles CfE examples including play:

Numeracy:

A rich and supportive learning environment will support a skilful mix of a variety of approaches, including:

  • active learning and planned, purposeful play

Throughout education, effective learning and teaching in literacy and English will involve a skilful mix of appropriate approaches including:

  • the use of relevant, real-life and enjoyable contexts which build upon children and young people's own experiences
  • a balance of spontaneous play and planned activities
  • frequent opportunities to communicate in a wide range of contexts, for relevant purposes and for real audiences within and beyond places of learning

In the sciences, effective learning and teaching depends upon the skilful use of varied approaches, including:

Active learning and planned, purposeful play

In social studies, effective learning and teaching will draw upon a variety of approaches including:

  • active learning which provides opportunities to observe, explore, experiment and play
  • use of relevant contexts and experiences familiar to children and young people learning outdoors, field trips, visits and input by external contributors.

(Source, Education Scotland, CfE Experiences and Outcomes, website, n.d.)

Indicators with play mentioned in CfE

Usually in Early or First:

  1. In everyday activity and play, I explore and make choices to develop my learning and interests. I am encouraged to use and share my experiences. HWB 0-19a
  2. Through taking part in a variety of events and activities, I am learning to recognise my own skills and abilities as well as those of others. HWB 1-19a
  3. I am enjoying daily opportunities to participate in different kinds of energetic play, both outdoors and indoors. HWB 0-25a
  4. Within and beyond my place of learning I am enjoying daily opportunities to participate in physical activities and sport, making use of available indoor and outdoor space. HWB 1-25a
  5. Gaelic: Through daily experiences and play I can listen or watch for interesting or useful information. LGL 0-04a
  6. I explore sounds, letters and words, discovering how they work together, and I can use what I learn to help me as I read or write. ENG 0-12a / LIT 0-13a / LIT 0-21a
  7. As I play and learn, I enjoy exploring interesting materials for writing and different ways of recording my experiences and feelings, ideas and information. LIT 0-21b
  8. As I play and learn, I am developing my understanding of what is fair and unfair and the importance of caring for, sharing and cooperating with others. RME 0-02a
  9. As I play and learn, I am developing my understanding of what is fair and unfair and why caring and sharing are important. RME 0-09a
  10. I have experienced, used and described a wide range of toys and common appliances. I can say 'what makes it go' and say what they do when they work. SCN 0-04a
  11. Through everyday experiences and play with a variety of toys and other objects, I can recognise simple types of forces and describe their effects. SCN 0-07a
  12. By investigating forces on toys and other objects, I can predict the effect on the shape or motion of objects. SCN 1-07a
  13. Through play, I have explored a variety of ways of making sounds. SCN 0-11a
  14. By exploring the forces exerted by magnets on other magnets and magnetic materials, I can contribute to the design of a game. SCN 1-08a
  15. Through creative play, I explore different materials and can share my reasoning for selecting materials for different purposes. SCN 0-15a
  16. I have explored how people lived in the past and have used imaginative play to show how their lives were different from my own and the people around me. SOC 0-04
  17. I make decisions and take responsibility in my everyday experiences and play, showing consideration for others. SOC 0-17a
  18. By exploring the ways in which we use and need rules, I can consider the meaning of rights and responsibilities and discuss those relevant to me. SOC 1-17a
  19. Within my everyday experiences and play, I make choices about where I work, how I work and who I work with. SOC 0-18a
  20. In real-life settings and imaginary play, I explore how local shops and services provide us with what we need in our daily lives. SOC 0-20a
  21. I enjoy playing with and exploring technologies to discover what they can do and how they can help us. TCH 0-01a
  22. I am developing problem-solving strategies, navigation and co-ordination skills, as I play and learn with electronic games, remote control or programmable toys. TCH 0-09a
  23. I am developing problem-solving strategies, navigation and co-ordination skills, as I play and learn with electronic games, remote control or programmable toys. TCH 1-09a
  24. Within real and imaginary settings, I am developing my practical skills as I select and work with a range of materials, tools and software. TCH 0-12a
  25. I explore materials, tools and software to discover what they can do and how I can use them to help solve problems and construct 3D objects which may have moving parts. TCH 1-12a

Source: Education Scotland, CfE Experiences and Outcomes, website (n. d.)

Building the Curriculum 2 (Scottish Executive, 2007).

There are currently five "Building the Curriculum" papers and related online resources (Education Scotland), such as videos and presentations, all intended to deepen the understanding of CfE. Building the Curriculum is specifically for the early and first (P1) stages and, without a doubt, demonstrates that, in terms of early learning, the focus of CfE is on play.

"In 2004, the Ministerial Response to the Curriculum Review proposed to:

'…bring the 3-5 and 5-14 curriculum guidelines together to ensure a smooth transition in what children have learned and also in how they learn. This will mean extending the approaches which are used in pre-school into the early years of primary, emphasising the importance of opportunities for children to learn through purposeful, well-planned play.'

For the first time, the curriculum for the pre-school sector and the early years of primary will therefore be presented together as one level. This will describe experiences and outcomes for children's learning in ways which will support a more active approach to learning and teaching in early primary school and encourage better continuity and progression for all children across all settings" (Scottish Executive, 2007 p. 4)

This is also linked to the concept of Active Learning; while this can be wider than play based learning, within all of the related guidance here, and on the Education Scotland website related resources, the focus is very much on play.

"In Scotland, as in many countries throughout the world, active learning is seen as an appropriate way for children to develop vital skills and knowledge and a positive attitude to learning.

Active learning is learning which engages and challenges children's thinking using real-life and imaginary situations. It takes full advantage of the opportunities for learning presented by:

  • spontaneous play
  • planned, purposeful play
  • investigating and exploring
  • events and life experiences
  • focused learning and teaching

Supported when necessary through sensitive intervention to support or extend learning (the Scottish Executive, 2007, p. 8).

This paper asserts that play supports all areas of the curriculum and discusses the importance of play for early primary children, supporting transitions, and providing a balance of teaching and free play.

Active learning through play therefore supports the overarching outcomes by:

>"successful learners through using their imagination and creativity, tackling new experiences and learning from them, and developing important skills including literacy and numeracy through exploring and investigating while following their own interests

> confident individuals through succeeding in their activities, having the satisfaction of a task accomplished, learning about bouncing back from setbacks, and dealing safely with risk

> responsible citizens through encountering different ways of seeing the world, learning to share and give and take, learning to respect themselves and others, and taking part in making decisions

> effective contributors through playing together in leading or supporting roles, tackling problems, extending communication skills, taking part in sustained talking and thinking, and respecting the opinions of others" (The Scottish Executive, 2007, p. 7).

As in the GTCS registration standards and professional recognition awards, outdoor learning is a specific focus of this curriculum guidance asserting that:

"All aspects of the curriculum can be explored outside. The sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors, the closeness to nature, the excitement most children feel, the wonder and curiosity all serve to enhance and stimulate learning" (Scottish Executive, 2007, p.18).

The design, planning and use of all space indoors and out in creating a positive environment for children is also emphasised (Scottish Executive, 2007, p. 18).

The paper addresses the issue of parental perceptions and expectations of school being a site of formal academic learning, where they expect children get to grip with more challenging work than the play based nursery care they have witnessed:

"In the early years of primary school there may be some difficulty with the word 'play' itself. Parents often need reassurance that their children will learn effectively through play, because of its association with leisure. What is important is that all staff with responsibility for planning early years learning recognise that active learning, including purposeful play, has a central role in that process and when necessary can demonstrate this to parents" (Scottish Executive, 2007 p. 22).

This was confirmed in the focus group interviews with teachers and assistants who reported that difficulties with parents when they provide play based learning and a lack of understanding of the importance of play in society (see focus group section).

Curriculum for Excellence through outdoor learning (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2010a)

This guidance covers the importance of integrating outdoor learning into all aspects of the curriculum. Children must be able to explore, learn and experience the benefits of the outdoors, in both planned and spontaneous outdoor learning sessions. Taking a child agency and child rights perspective, where what children themselves bring to their interactions with the outdoor learning experience, this can range from maximising the potential of the immediate school grounds, both for play and for planned outdoor learning opportunities, and utilising the surrounding neighbourhood, or planned day trips and longer residential opportunities, further afield.

It is noted that the same type of experience, e.g. a visit to a farm, can be sequentially built on as children progress through different stages of learning throughout their educational journey e.g. what is relevant to highlight, observe and be of interest, will be quite different between a five or a twelve year old. While the guidance does not often mention outdoor play as such, the outdoor environment for play and learning is covered, e.g.:

"My daughter's favourite thing to do at the moment is forest school, where they take a picnic lunch, they get to play, explore and investigate and even toast marshmallows on a fire. She absolutely loves it and talks about it all the time.' Parent of a child in a pre-school centre " (LTS, 2010, p. 15)

The guidance emphasises the enjoyable, challenging and exciting nature of outdoor learning experiences:

"Outdoor learning, used in a range of ways, will enrich the curriculum and make learning fun, meaningful and relevant for children and young people. " (LTS, 2010 p. 15)

Furthermore:

"Outdoor learning can deliver sustainable development education through initiatives such as working to improve biodiversity in the school grounds, visiting the local woods, exploring and engaging with the local community and developing a school travel plan" (LTS, 2010, p.15).

Outdoor learning in particular also contributes strongly to health and wellbeing aspects of the curriculum, addressing physical activity and obesity issues, supports transitions and gives opportunities for deeper engagement with nature, the landscape and in valuing the richness of the varied natural resources in Scotland. This contributes to wider understanding of local and global environmental issues.

The guidance stresses the importance of both planning and integrating outdoor learning in long and short- term practice and the cognitive benefits and deeper engagement that outdoor learning provides for all children and young people, especially benefiting children who do not engage so well in the classroom. In addition to team-work, problem solving and inquiry skills, a major component is also in improving and deepening relationships, as essential part of wellbeing and learning, across the curriculum. Enjoyment of nature in terms of wellbeing alongside the physical health benefits of activities outdoors are all also developmental opportunities supported by outdoor learning.

3. Education Scotland (formally Learning Teaching Scotland) and Scottish Government: Other Guidance materials

Pre-Birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland's Children and Families (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010) and Interactive multi- media support materials Pre Birth to Three

The importance of play, including "intrinsically motivated, freely chosen and self-directed play" is very clear in this official guidance on the learning and development needs of the 0-3 year old age range. This is a guide to both good, evidence based practice and professional development, as it sets out the context of the care and development of this age group. , within a set of 4 principles; the Rights of the Child, Relationships, Responsive Care and Respect There are 9 key interrelated features; Role of Staff, Attachments, Transitions, Observation, Assessment and Planning, Partnership Working, Health and Wellbeing, Literacy and Numeracy, Environments and last but not least; Play (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010, p. 27).

The importance of outdoor play and physical activities and the development of social relationships through the play of babies and toddlers, with each other, caregivers and in their own interactions with their environment are stressed, while the centrality of play to development is confirmed:

"Play and movement are essential for brain development as it is often through play that babies and young children learn about themselves, others and the world around them" (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010, p. 26).

The work of theorists on play are covered, as well as understanding terms such as "play as process" (Bruce 2001, cited in Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010, p. 73). Further discussion covers assessing and managing risky play, ensuring that children are free to choose their own play, appreciating the intrinsic value of play, as well as developmental outcomes, ensuring access to good indoor and outdoor environments for play, and creating opportunities for heuristic play, such as treasure baskets.

Building the Ambition: National Practice Guidance on Early Learning and Childcare Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (Scottish Government, 2014a)

This national practice guidance sets the context for high quality Early Learning and Childcare as set out in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. Published in the autumn of 2014, this guidance seeks to support practitioners in all early learning and childcare settings in Scotland. The guidance explains the use of new terminology to replace the terms pre-school education or early education and childcare.

This new "early learning and childcare" term, encompasses the greater understanding of how children learn within the context of caring, attached relationships, which has led to an acceptance of what most childcare practitioners already know, that there is no actual divide between caring for young children and supporting their learning and development. The move away from using the term "education" is also deliberate as it is stressed, following on from Building the Curriculum 2: and Pre-Birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland's Children and Families, that children are active agents in their own learning, through their own relationships and choices, in play and other activities.

" Early learning and childcare takes account of the assets, which a child brings themselves and also what is gained from interactions with important individuals, namely parents, carers and practitioners" (Scottish Government, 2014a, p. 11)

Covering the policy and research background and linking to GIRFEC, (Scottish Government, 2008a), the Early Years Collaborative (Scottish Government, 2013c), Growing up in Scotland (website, n. d), the guidance goes on the set the context in terms of supporting families, how we view the young child and making a difference. Throughout there are case studies and personal reflection questions for practitioners. Later sections cover attachment theories, discuss the issue of developmental stages and focus closely on what are the characteristics of babies, toddlers and young children, and what they need. The importance of good relationships are highlighted, a section on understanding and using the pedagogy of early learning and a discussion of why settings and staff need to provide high quality services.

Central to this enquiry, is Section 4 of the guidance entitled: "What do we mean by play and learning?" And "4.1 How are play and learning connected?" (Scottish Government, 2014a, pp 30-32)

This section opens with an immediate reference to the Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Vision (Scottish Government, 2013b) and uses the following central definition of play to this enquiry:

"Play encompasses children's behaviour which is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. It is performed for no external goal or reward and is a fundamental and integral part of healthy development which seeks to improve play experiences for all children." (Scottish Government, 2013b, p.14)

There is a brief discussion of the difficulties of defining "play" e.g. play as practising new skills, using imaginary play to cope with reality, trying out ideas, better understanding of thoughts and concepts, all acknowledged to be valid theories on how children learn through play. It is also described as "both a tricky word and a complicated concept to define" (Scottish Government, 2014, p. 30).

There are warnings against seeing play as "just play", seeing it as less important without acknowledging the intrinsic value of children's own play actions and choices in comparison to planned and adult directed play activities. There is a challenge recognised in that practitioners can often over direct play, often because they themselves are uncomfortable with natural play evolving, without interference, or do not appreciate the level of deep engagement in learning enabled through free-flow play, for example, Tina Bruce's description of the twelve features of free flow play.

"For example, in their play children use the first hand experiences they have had in life. Children rehearse their future in their play[32]." (Scottish Government, 2014a, p.30)

The work of Christine Stephen in her paper "Pedagogy: The Silent Partner in Early Years Learning[33] " (Scottish Government, 2014, p.31) is also brought in to support the argument that play is fundamental to early years learning; including widening children's skills, extending their thinking and consolidation of their learning. The role of the practitioner in understanding the value of play is of critical importance. It is also acknowledged that more needs to be done:

"There is a balance where we need to raise the profile of play and also to deepen an understanding for practitioners in supporting play experiences with children" (Scottish Government, 2014, p. 30)

This section concludes with some ideas on what a practitioner could do to support play, such as:

"Be aware of the immediate environment; be flexible in offering choices and carefully select resources which capture interest to create moments which spark children's play and, have in mind what individual children's current interest may be and provide props and spaces both inside and outside where children can play" (Scottish Government, 2014, p. 31).

There are other examples throughout the document of the value of play, e.g., in supporting wellbeing in young children: "Allow opportunities to play and learn together, to share ideas and interests, to reconcile differences and to begin to develop a sense of fairness. Encourage children to contribute their own ideas and be involved indecision making about their day. Engage children in daily energetic play, which supports and extends their developing physical skills, stamina and strength" (Scottish Government, 2014, p.70)

Also in discussing knowledge about how young children learn, "The knowledge of child development underpins sound practice. The most effective pedagogy combines both "teaching" (in its widest sense) and providing freely chosen yet potentially instructive play activities" (Scottish Government, 2014, p.77).

4: Teaching Qualifications and Training

Context: Teaching Scotland's Future

The publication of Teaching Scotland's Future, often referred to as the Donaldson Report (Scottish Government, 2011), made over 50 recommendations, which has led to widespread changes in both initial teacher education and induction practice and in demanding ongoing and more rigorous professional development throughout their teaching career.

The B.Ed. is being phased out in Scottish Universities (by 2017) to be replaced by BA or MA Education qualifications, in some cases linked to a new potential MA or MEd continuation courses. The PGDE remains in place, both for Primary and Secondary Teaching.

The report also sets out aspirations for teachers to be engaged in higher level academic research and reflective practice, with many in the profession moving towards MA level qualifications, in order to improve their educational practice to the benefit of children and young people.

Teacher Training Courses in Scotland:

The table below shows the upscaling of courses from the previous B.Ed. across institutions and, as recommended in Teaching Scotland's Future (2012) teaching students are being given access to different courses (not just "education ones") but GTCS do point out that still, "we need a balance between academic and vocational qualifications" (GTCS, Tom Hamilton, interview, 2014).

This is followed by the results from the short online survey of teacher training providers; with Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Stirling Universities responding, and the results of a focus group discussion with teachers (both trained at Strathclyde University) and primary support assistants from one school.

Table I: Teacher Training Courses in Scotland

Institution BA Education PGDE (Primary/ Secondary) MA Education or MEd
University of Aberdeen PGDE Primary

PGDE Gaelic medium

PGDE Secondary
MA (Hons) Education
University of Dundee PGDE Primary

PGDE Secondary
MA (Hons) Education MEd (for teachers)
University of Edinburgh PGDE Primary

PGDE Secondary
MA(Hons) & chosen field
University of Glasgow BA Education ( first part of Masters) PGDE Primary

PGDE Secondary
MA Education
University of Highlands & Islands PGDE Primary
University of Stirling BA(Hons) Education a research-informed degree in Professional Education with a teaching subject (or subjects) for secondary in four years
University of Strathclyde BA(Hons) Education & chosen field PGDE Primary

PGDE Gaelic medium(in progress)

PGDE Secondary
MA Education
University of West of Scotland BA Education

BA(Hons) Education with chosen field
PGDE Primary

Table J: Teacher Training Course Provider Survey Results

Teacher Training Survey
Scotland's National Play Strategy and Action Plan
Question 1: Prior to this survey, were you aware of Scotland's National Play Strategy and associated Action Plan?
Question 2: Would you like to learn more about the National Play Strategy via a meeting with a representative from the National Play Strategy Implementation Group?
Question 3: Qualifications provided and if Primary and/or Secondary?
Question numbers 1 2 3
University of Stirling Yes No BA Primary & Secondary
University of Aberdeen Yes Yes MA PGDE Primary & Secondary
University of Edinburgh No Yes BA, BEd, MA, MEd, PGDE Primary & Secondary

Comment:

The first two questions are intended to gauge awareness of the Scotland's National Play Strategy (Scottish Government, 2013b) and associated Action Plan (Scottish Government, 2013a). Only one out of three was not aware of the plan, while two were interested in follow up information. Interestingly, for the third question on what qualifications are delivered, Edinburgh is still running the B.Ed. and the MEd, although this is likely only for current continuing students, as the course information on their current website does not include these two qualifications.

Table J: Teaching Training Course Provider Survey Results (Cont.)

Teacher Training Survey
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the General Comment on Article 31
Question 4: Is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) incorporated into your courses?
Question 5: If you answered 'yes', how is this incorporated into your courses?
Question numbers 4 5
University of Stirling Yes Through relevant modules EDU9X6 (Early Years) EDU9E6 (Differences and Diversities)
University of Aberdeen Yes Integral part of reading and reflection for a written assessment
University of Edinburgh Yes Students cover this in lectures and workshops. On placements they are required to look at how inclusion and Children's' Rights are part of the policy and practice of the workplace.

 

Teacher Training Survey
General Comment on Article 31
Question 6: Are you aware of, and know the contents of the UN General Comment on article 31 of the UNCRC, the child's right to culture, leisure, rest and play?
Question 7: Have you incorporated elements of the general comment into your courses?
Question 8: If you answered 'yes' to the previous question, could you describe how you have incorporated the General Comment into your courses?
Question numbers 6 7 8
University of Stirling Yes Yes In lecture and seminar content in the modules listed above
University of Aberdeen Yes No
University of Edinburgh Yes Yes Through content of lectures on the theory and practice of child development and children's learning, also through pedagogical practice.

Comment: As expected, see GTCS and CfE sections, the UNCRC is integral to all courses, with two out of three also including the specific general comment on Article 31.

Table J: Teaching Training Course Provider Survey Results (Cont.)

Teacher Training Survey
Free Play
Question 9: Are the concepts, and delivery, of 'free play' covered in your courses?
Question 10: If you answered 'yes' to the previous question, could you please describe how these are incorporated into your courses.
Question numbers 9 10
University of Stirling Yes In the lecture and seminar content of EDU9X6
University of Aberdeen Yes included in a lecture and course readings
University of Edinburgh Yes Through content of lectures on the theory and practice of child development and children's learning, also through pedagogical practice

 

Teacher Training Survey
Early learning
Question 11: Are there specialist modules on early learning, which include play, and play for those intending to work in early years settings?
Question 12: If you answered 'yes' to the previous question, please provide details of these courses.
Question numbers 11 12
University of Stirling Yes In EDU9X6 and in modules taken by Early Years Students out with Education in the Nursing modules Child Health and Families and GIRFEC
University of Aberdeen Yes In our Masters Qualification
University of Edinburgh Yes The PGDE (Primary) Course, for which I am course organisers, dedicated one third of the time to early year's theory and practice. We run workshops and have lectures dedicated to looking at child development, learning, theory and practice. We look at the concept of play, 'free' play, responsive play and structured play.
Question 13: Any other comments? 13
University of Edinburgh Yes CfE, and in particular active learning, is a key area of discussion and investigation in our PGDE (Primary) Course. Play is an ongoing area of investigation within the course, spanning all stages (3-12 years), and students look at how teachers can best support effective learning in their workplaces. As an evolving area, tutors feel that they are continually having to stay abreast of new ideas and theory.

Comment: It is illuminating to see that play is not only included, but covers the whole primary school age range and is an integral part of early learning modules. The importance of early year's development for all teachers' understanding of children is supported by the weightings given to the share of course content

The Open University: qualifications for teaching assistants

Certificate of Higher Education in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Primary Schools and Diploma of Higher Education in Primary Teaching and Learning

For both qualifications, the introductory course/module is E111 Supporting Learning in Primary Schools

Block 5: Play, creativity and learning Study topic 12 'Environments for learning' considers the importance of an imaginative and stimulating school physical and social environment to support learning and appropriate behaviour. Study topic 13 'Play and learning' highlights the significance of play in the lives of children and adults, and suggests

Extract from: Introduction to Study Topic 13: Play and Learning:

"The relationship between play and learning has generated much discussion among educationalists over the years. In this study topic we propose that play is a natural and universal activity - for children as well as adults. It is of critical importance to children's development and learning, and fundamental to their health and well-being. We argue that play is an important learning process for children of all ages, although we believe that, it may take on different forms as children grow older. We adopt a very broad view of play and distinguish between 'child-initiated' play, when children play without adult supervision and are in control of what happens, and 'adult-directed' play, when adults influence or lead children's play. We also note the close associations between play and humour, fun, enjoyment and 'playfulness'. All, we believe, have the potential to enhance learning in schools. We clarify the possibilities for play in schools, given that the purpose of the curriculum is to promote development and learning in a framework which is determined nationally.

In Section 1 we argue for a concept of play that includes everyone, whatever their age. We consider what play means for children, children's right to play, the developmental difficulties that can arise if children don't play, and we look at some examples of provision for children's play, including the playground.

In Section 2 we consider evidence that suggests play is important to learning, and we highlight the benefits of play and the learning processes associated with it. Extending the notion of children's rights, we examine the importance of children's ownership of their experience in school and how this supports positive attitudes towards learning. We consider a range of 'play types' and how these can be represented in the delivery of learning.

In Section 3 we discuss the play-based curriculum and we make a case for the continued use of play as children move through primary school" (Open University, E111 course content, e-mail information, July, 2014)

Table 15 (Appendix): The Open University: Certificate of Higher Education in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Primary Schools and Diploma of Higher Education in Primary Teaching and Learning

Although this is a qualification for working in schools the relevant units above are rich in play across all the different criteria, including bringing in play types the difference between a child's self-directed play, or adult directed, as well as the play and learning environment, including creativity, indoors and outdoors. The importance of play to children's learning and development, including their wellbeing and highlighting the fun, happiness and enjoyment to be obtained from play, is stressed throughout.

Focus Group interview - Teachers and primary school assistants

Although holding a focus group had not been originally part of the remit of this research, it was felt necessary to gain some insight (albeit it on a very limited scale) from school staff in terms of their qualifications and training with respect to play and child development and how this is supported by practice within the school.

Focus group Friday 3rd October 2014, a Glasgow primary school

A focus group was held with three PSAs (two of whom also work in the out of school care service based within the school, but not run by the school) and two teachers qualified within the past five years. One of the PSAs holds an SVQ3 in Playwork and is registered with the SSSC, one has no qualifications and the other preferred not to say. The other PSA who worked in the out of school care was recently new in post and had yet to register with the SSSC.

One teacher qualified in 2009 with a BA (Hons) in Education and teaches primary 1, and the other graduated with a PGDE in 2011 and teaches primary 3; both studied at the University of Strathclyde.

From your experience and perspective is play and child development in teacher training?

The BA (Hons) teacher felt that over the 4 years, yes, play types were discussed as was child psychology.

The PgDE teacher felt that the course was tight for time (38 weeks in total) to cover everything and felt there was nothing about active learning nor play and there was not much in terms of child development, although a book "Starting at the child" by Jane Fisher was on the recommended reading list.

What play practice is there in school?

The primary one teacher has implemented 30 minutes free-play on a daily basis for the children; this happens at the start of the day. During this time the children play with a variety of resources and builds on social skills and caring. The teacher said that this did not come directly through knowledge from the qualification but through her own idea; this was fully supported by the head teacher.

Do you think there could be more possible opportunities for free play in school?

In terms of classroom time all staff felt that this was not really possible since there was already felt to be a pressure on time to deliver the curriculum. It was mentioned that P1 - P3 used to have time in a playroom which was semi-structured but now this is facilitated in the classroom.

Perspectives on play

All the staff were asked about their perspectives on play to which all said that playful learning i.e. fun is vital for children to learn.

However staff felt that they have to justify everything they do to parents, in terms of parental expectation, and this includes free play and teaching methods. Parents would question why children are playing in school, suggesting there is a lack of understanding in society about how children learn through play, yet no-one questioned play in nursery.

PSAs- work in playground and classroom.

The PSAs are also playground supervisors at break and lunch times and it was felt that the work in the playground is much more like that of playwork. In terms of working in the classroom, although it's a more formal setting they felt they were also able to bring a more informal and playful element to their work in this situation.

Any issues about PSAs working in school and after school care?

One PSA said it could be hard to switch off from school mode, but it was mostly seen to be positive- PSAs know the children and also know if there have been any issues in the school. They felt the children do treat staff differently between the 2 settings - they are more relaxed with them in out of school care service.

Risky/Challenging Play

All bar one of the staff stated a nervousness about risky/challenging play- one teacher in particular said she feels very responsible for all her children and as a consequence is very risk averse.

The other teacher said she had worked in a school where a child broke their arm in the playground and the school was sued, yet interestingly she was not risk averse and believed that accidents do just happen. This teacher had also been in a school where she had made fires with a P2 class (under the guidance of an external play training organisation) and the school provided loose parts play, which also decreased disruption in the playground.

The PSAs when working in the playground also felt quite wary of risk.

Summary: Play content of teacher training/ teaching assistant courses

In the review of website information on the various teacher training courses, no content was found specifically in relation to play, or indeed, active learning, in what mainly was very short course titles and descriptions. The three survey responses demonstrate however, that play, including free play, and the UNCRC, including the General Comment on Article 31 (two out of three), is included in teaching training courses in Scotland. The content of the teaching assistant training from the Open University shows a detailed understanding of play and the focus group interviews suggest that play is included within teacher training, at least in the longer 4 year BA Hons course, with perhaps the very tight timescale for PGDE not allowing much room for this.

5. Education Scotland - Active Learning and Play Resources

This is a large website with a wide range of resources on learning and teaching, including audio-visual materials, themed, interactive learning zones, and a total of 31725 resources listed, for a range of site content results by Sector, Curriculum areas, themes and type. It is a useful training and information resource for those involved in teaching, play, early learning and childcare and community learning and development.

The tables in the Appendix are interactive; therefore clicking on the headings should generate a list of relevant articles or resources on the Education Scotland website. All are copyright to Education Scotland. As they are essentially hyperlinked topics here this will not be included in the references section, but will be reproduced in the appendix of useful tables of information and links.

5.1 Glow - interactive online resource

"Glow supports learners to achieve their full potential by unlocking the benefits of the internet and providing a unique nationwide online environment for learning (Education Scotland, 2014)

Glow can be accessed from anywhere at any time - in school, at home or on the move, by anyone who has a password. Access to Glow is password protected; the Glow password is an important feature and automatically connects the user with appropriate materials and resources.

The Glow environment for learning supports Curriculum for Excellence:

For educators:

  • A tool to access and develop high quality, relevant learning content
  • A space for collaboration and interaction with other educators across Scotland
  • A way to access files and materials anywhere, anytime using different devices
  • A facility to build learning resources for classes and pupils

For learners:

  • A tool to access the benefits of the internet and a range of online resources and services via one log-in
  • A space for collaborating with other learners
  • A facility to connect with teachers about assignments and learning
  • A space to create and innovate as you learn" ( Education Scotland Website, October 2014)

Through Glow children and young people can also access online game based learning, including playing existing games and designing their own games.

. On the website there are articles explaining the importance of using children and young people's skills and interests that they already have e.g.:

"Game based learning resonates with today's learners because games are a key aspect of their digital culture. One of the main theories in this is social constructivism.

This theory argues that educators must be aware of the skills, knowledge and experiences that learners have when they come to school. The educator must see the child in the context of what they can do and what they already know in order to create learning experiences. This will take them further than viewing the child as an 'empty vessel' that needs to be passively filled with knowledge.

This framework requires the active involvement of the children in the construction of their own meaning, understanding and developing skill set. Inherent and fundamental to social constructivism is the idea that we also must appreciate that the learner does not operate in a dry theoretical vacuum but within a complex and dynamic social framework." (Education Scotland, Glow, n.d. accessed, 2014).

6. Play in Education Enquiry Results Analysis

Play Pedagogies, Playwork Theories and Practice:

There are links to play in a general sense across all of the areas of play in education discussed as of course both the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and the GTS teacher Registration standards link with GIRFEC, where play is included in the Wellbeing wheel, both also specifically mention outdoor learning, which also includes play. With the overarching principles across CfE - for example, across Literacy and English, it includes "a balance of spontaneous play and planned activities" (Education Scotland, CfE, n.d).

Within experiences and outcomes indicators for CfE, a sample of five indicators are very specifically about play amongst fourteen which mention play across curriculum areas, usually at the earlier stages e.g. "I am enjoying daily opportunities to participate in different kinds of energetic play, both outdoors and indoors. HWB 0-25a, As I play and learn, I am developing my understanding of what is fair and unfair and the importance of caring for, sharing and cooperating with others. RME 0-02a, through play, I have explored a variety of ways of making sounds. SCN 0-11a, I make decisions and take responsibility in my everyday experiences and play, showing consideration for others. SOC 0-17a, and in real-life settings and imaginary play, I explore how local shops and services provide us with what we need in our daily lives. SOC 0-20a "(Education Scotland, CfE, n.d).

Within particular guidance documents for CfE, Building the Curriculum 2: (Scottish Executive, 2007), focuses on the early years and makes it clear that spontaneous play is integral to active learning, with a balance of teacher led and child led free play. The guidance demonstrates how play is useful for transitions as well as meeting the wider Scottish government outcomes framework, and it supports the wider use of outdoor play and learning. This links closely with other Building the Curriculum papers, especially the Curriculum for Excellence through outdoor learning (LTS, 2010a), which mentions free play in the school grounds as part of wider more focused and planned outdoor learning experiences across the curriculum. Outdoor learning is integral to children's health and wellbeing and as a form of learning which extends and deepens classroom learning, and it is expected to be an integral part of whole school and specific subject curriculum planning. There is an example given of a child enjoying the play and discovery processes involved in taking part in a Forest School.

Where there is a strong focus on play as described in the Playwork Principles, is within both the guidance on Pre-Birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland's Children and Families (LTS,2010b) and Building the Ambition: National Practice Guidance on Early Learning and Childcare (Scottish Government, 2014). In the Pre-birth to Three guidance, e.g. "intrinsically motivated, freely chosen and self-directed play" and "Play as process" (Bruce 2001 cited in Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010, p 73). Further discussion covers assessing and managing risky play, ensuring that children are free to choose their own play, ensuring access to good indoor and outdoor environments for play, and creating opportunities for heuristic play.

In Building the Ambition (Scottish Government, 2014) the National Play Strategy is quoted: "play encompasses children's behaviour which is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. It is performed for no external goal or reward and is a fundamental and integral part of healthy development which seeks to improve play experiences for all children." (Scottish Government, 2013b, p. 14) and the value of children's own play actions and choices in comparison to planned and adult directed play activities is discussed.

The guidance states that you should "Encourage children to contribute their own ideas and be involved in decision making about their day. Engage children in daily energetic play, which supports and extends their developing physical skills, stamina and strength" (Scottish Government, 2014, p.70) and ensure that "knowledge of child development underpins sound practice. The most effective pedagogy combines both "teaching" (in its widest sense) and providing freely chosen yet potentially instructive play activities" (Scottish Government, 2014, p.77).

Three teacher training course providers responded to the follow up survey and two were already aware of Scotland's National Play Strategy (Scottish Government,2013b) and associated Action Plan (Scottish Government, 2013a). The UNCRC is integral to all courses, while two also included the UNCRC General comment on Article 31. All three covered the concept of free play in their training, and play in a variety of senses occupies a third of the course content of the Edinburgh PGDE. The results of this small sample does show that play is included and indeed is covered beyond the early years and right across the primary school years.

The Open University Certificate of Higher Education in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Primary Schools and Diploma of Higher Education in Primary Teaching and Learning states that "... distinguish between 'child-initiated' play, when children play without adult supervision and are in control of what happens, and 'adult-directed' play, when adults influence or lead children's play. We also note the close associations between play and humour, fun, enjoyment and 'playfulness'" and "Extending the notion of children's rights, we examine the importance of children's ownership of their experience in school and how this supports positive attitudes towards learning. We consider a range of 'play types' and how these can be represented in the delivery of learning" (email correspondence, 2014).

In the small focus group interview with two teachers and three primary school assistants, one teacher, qualified through the BA (Hons), said that play was covered in her training, including play types and in child psychology training, although the other, who had gone the PGDE route, said it was not or barely covered with so much to be crammed in. The BA (Hons) teacher in working with primary 1 children implemented 30 minutes free time play for children, although this was developed from her own discussions with a supportive Head Teacher, rather than from her training.

All interviewed believed in the value of play and playful, fun learning for children. There was a definite sense that teachers have to justify everything they do to parents- this includes free play and teaching methods. They felt there was a distinct lack of understanding in society as no-one questioned play in nursery. PSAs- work in playground and classroom found that their playground work much more like playwork, although included other aspects of support to children, while for one, both working in school and out of school service, found that it benefits children knowing them well. Their views on Risky/Challenging Play showed that all bar one stated a nervousness about risky/challenging play however, one teacher was not risk averse and saw benefits of risky play, loose parts play, fires etc. and positive effect on children's of such opportunities.

Education Scotland Website: Search "Play"; Overall Results: 1001 (26 October 2014)

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk

For "Play" "Secondary Education" has the most hits (450) - however, this is also because "play" as in drama/literature resources also come up here; reflected in the "Expressive Arts" (107) curriculum areas. Outdoor Learning is the leading theme (43) but leading content is advice and information (189), although there are also substantial learning and teaching resources (144).

Play and Child Development and Learning/ Active Learning and Curriculum

For the evaluation of this section, which is mainly about the training and guidance relating to the curriculum and often where development and learning is supported through active learning, these two categories are brought together.

In terms of the various sets of standards of the GTCS, the professional values and principles, which underpin all of the student and teacher standards, under social justice, integrity, respect, trust and professional commitment includes:

"Respecting the rights of all learners as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and their entitlement to be included in decisions regarding their learning experiences and have all aspects of their well-being developed and supported" (GTCS,2012, p. 5)

"Have an understanding of current, relevant legislation and guidance such the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act (2000), Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, the Equality Act 2010 and GIRFEC" (GTCS, 2012, p. 10). In terms of their professional responsibilities, which includes Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) (Scottish Government, 2008a).

It is clear it is not just about academic achievement in looking after the holistic needs of children and young people: "Know how to promote and support the cognitive, emotional, social and physical wellbeing of all learners, and demonstrate a commitment to raising all learners' expectations of themselves" (GTCS, 2012, p. 8).

CfE has a broader scope than specific academic outcomes in that it is concerned with a holistic approach to the learning and development of children and young people aged 3-18 in Scotland. As such, it links closely with other national interrelated policies on children and their families, for example, Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) (Scottish Government, 2008a) and the Early Years Framework (Scottish Government, 2009).

Looking across all of the experiences and outcomes indicators under each curriculum area, it is clear that usually play based or active learning is more prevalent in those indicators set out for either or both the Early Years (3-5) or First, usually P1 to P2. CfE does recognise that some children may be at these stages for longer, dependent on their needs. Right across CfE in the overarching health and wellbeing and the specific subject areas, play is also listed in overarching measures in terms of active learning in the subjects for all ages. E.g.

In Numeracy and the Sciences learning includes "active learning and planned, purposeful play", in social studies, effective learning and teaching will draw upon a variety of approaches including: "Active learning which provides opportunities to observe, explore, experiment and play" (Education Scotland, CfE, n.d.), and Literacy and English also include both planned and spontaneous play.

There are also other specific indicators, which are about such active learning, e.g. "I am developing problem-solving strategies, navigation and co-ordination skills, as I play and learn with electronic games, remote control or programmable toys, TCH 1-09a." And ..."I explore materials, tools and software to discover what they can do and how I can use them to help solve problems and construct 3D objects which may have moving parts. TCH 1-12a" (Education Scotland, CfE, n.d.).

Building the Curriculum 2: (Scottish Executive, 2007) is really all about active learning as a method of supporting the development of children in the early years. It brings in concepts such as "sustained shared thinking". The guidance notes that for the first time, the curriculum for the pre-school sector and the early years of primary are presented together as one level. Therefore, as in CfE, it is expected that P1- P2 children, experience play based active learning as integral to their transition to school and as essential for their development: Active learning is defined as:

"Learning which engages and challenges children's thinking using real-life and imaginary situations. It takes full advantage of the opportunities for learning presented by:

  • spontaneous play
  • planned, purposeful play
  • investigating and exploring
  • events and life experiences
  • focused learning and teaching

Supported when necessary through sensitive intervention to support or extend learning (Education Scotland, 2007 p. 8). This paper asserts that play supports all areas of the curriculum and discusses the importance of play for early primary children, supporting transitions, and providing a balance of teaching and free play.

The paper addresses the issue of parental perceptions and expectations of school being a site of formal academic learning, where they expect children get to grip with more challenging work than the play based nursery care they have witnessed:

"In the early years of primary school there may be some difficulty with the word 'play' itself. Parents often need reassurance that their children will learn effectively through play, because of its association with leisure. What is important is that all staff with responsibility for planning early years learning recognise that active learning, including purposeful play, has a central role in that process and when necessary can demonstrate this to parents" ( Education Scotland, 2007 p. 22).

As highlighted in the literature review, there is an awareness of the difficulties early primary teachers may have in adjusting to providing the partly free play based curriculum and this is reflected in the small focus group discussion, both in terms of getting time to offer this, and in getting parents to understand such play supports learning.

Curriculum for Excellence through outdoor learning (LTS, 2010a) This guidance covers the importance of integrating outdoor learning into all aspects of the curriculum. Much of outdoor learning can be construed as active learning. "Outdoor learning, used in a range of ways, will enrich the curriculum and make learning fun, meaningful and relevant for children and young people. " (LTS, 2010a p. 15). Children must be able to explore, learn and experience the benefits of the outdoors, in both planned and spontaneous outdoor learning sessions. This can range from maximising the potential of the immediate school grounds, both for play and for planned outdoor learning opportunities, and utilising the surrounding neighbourhood, or planned day trips and longer residential opportunities, further afield. Enjoyment of nature in terms of wellbeing alongside the physical health benefits of activities outdoors are all developmental opportunities supported by outdoor learning.

Pre-Birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland's Children and Families (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010b)

This is a guide to both good, evidence based practice and professional development, as it sets out the context of the care and development of this age group, within a set of 4 principles; the Rights of the Child, Relationships, Responsive Care and Respect. There are 9 key interrelated features; Role of Staff, Attachments, Transitions, Observation, Assessment and Planning, Partnership Working, Health and Wellbeing, Literacy and Numeracy, Environments and last but not least; Play (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010b, p27).

The importance of outdoor play and physical activities and the development of social relationships through the play of babies and toddlers, with each other, caregivers and in their own interactions with their environment are stressed, while the centrality of play to development is confirmed:

"Play and movement are essential for brain development as it is often through play that babies and young children learn about themselves, others and the world around them" (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010b,p 26).

Building the Ambition: National Practice Guidance on Early Learning and Childcare Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (Scottish Government, 2014a)

This new "early learning and childcare" term, encompasses the greater understanding of how children learn within the context of caring, attached relationships, which has led to an acceptance of what most childcare practitioners already know, that there is no actual divide between caring for young children and supporting their learning and development. The move away from using the term "education" is also deliberate as it is stressed, following on from Building the Curriculum 2: (Scottish Executive,2007) and Pre-Birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland's Children and Families (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010b), that children are active agents in their own learning, through their own relationships and choices, in play and other activities. " Early learning and childcare takes account of the assets, which a child brings themselves and also what is gained from interactions with important individuals, namely parents, carers and practitioners" ( Scottish Government, 2014a, p. 11)

Covering the policy and research background and linking to GIRFEC, (Scottish Government, 2008a), the Early Years Collaborative (Scottish Government, 2013c), Growing up in Scotland (website, n. d), the guidance goes on the set the context in terms of supporting families, how we view the young child and making a difference. Throughout there are case studies and personal reflection questions for practitioners. Later sections cover attachment theories, discuss the issue of developmental stages and focus closely on what are the characteristics of babies, toddlers and young children, and what do they need. The importance of good relationships are highlighted, a section on understanding and using the pedagogy of early learning and a discussion of why settings and staff need to provide high quality services.

This is a useful and practical resource for early learning and childcare providers. Active learning and children's development needs are strong threads throughout the guidance. As mentioned in the play section above, there is also reference to free, unstructured play as well as examples of planned purposeful play and using play stimulants such as treasure baskets. There is a discussion of the knowledge and confidence practitioners must bring to not intervening overtly and interrupting the flow of children's working though, for example, their schemas until the child is satisfied with his or her mastery of the process being worked through.

The Teacher Training Survey also asked about:

Question 11: Are there specialist modules on early learning, which include play, and play for those intending to work in early years settings?

Replies included:

"In EDU9X6 and in modules taken by Early Years Students outwith Education in the Nursing modules Child Health and Families and GIRFEC "(University of Aberdeen)

"In our Masters Qualification" (University of Stirling)

"The PGDE (Primary) Course, for which I am course organisers, dedicated one third of the time to early year's theory and practice. We run workshops and have lectures dedicated to looking at child development, learning, theory and practice. We look at the concept of play, 'free' play, responsive play and structured play" (University of Edinburgh) and:

"CfE, and in particular active learning, is a key area of discussion and investigation in our PGDE (Primary) Course. Play is an ongoing area of investigation within the course, spanning all stages (3-12 years), and students look at how teachers can best support effective learning in their workplaces. As an evolving area, tutors feel that they are continually having to stay abreast of new ideas and theory" (University of Edinburgh).

In the Open University Teaching Assistant courses play, learning, development and curriculum are covered: following the play based information in the play section above, "In Section 2 we consider evidence that suggests play is important to learning, and we highlight the benefits of play and the learning processes associated with it. ...we examine the importance of children's ownership of their experience in school and how this supports positive attitudes towards learning. We consider a range of 'play types' and how these can be represented in the delivery of learning. In Section 3 we discuss the play-based curriculum and we make a case for the continued use of play as children move through primary school" (Open University, E111 course content, e-mail information, July, 2014).

Education Scotland Website: Active learning: Overall 2885 results for search "Active Learning" (26 October 2014) http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk

Interestingly , "Active Learning" has the most "hits" under the secondary school sector (995), Health and Wellbeing in the Curriculum areas (151), Outdoor Learning (174) in themes, and Learning and Teaching Resource (559) in content type.

Of interest for this section is also the digital learning materials available through "Glow", where children can engage in digital game based learning:

"Game based learning resonates with today's learners because games are a key aspect of their digital culture. One of the main theories in this is social constructivism.

This theory argues that educators must be aware of the skills, knowledge and experiences that learners have when they come to school. The educator must see the child in the context of what they can do and what they already know in order to create learning experiences. This will take them further than viewing the child as an 'empty vessel' that needs to be passively filled with knowledge.

This framework requires the active involvement of the children in the construction of their own meaning, understanding and developing skill set. Inherent and fundamental to social constructivism is the idea that we also must appreciate that the learner does not operate in a dry theoretical vacuum but within a complex and dynamic social framework." (Education Scotland, Glow, accessed 2014).

Children's Rights/ modern/ postmodern theory

This is already covered in GTCS Registration standards (2012) and CfE (Scottish Executive 2004) both link to GIRFEC ( Scottish Government 2008a) and UNCRC (UN, 1989), while the teacher training course provider survey responses all said they covered the UNCRC (UN, 1989), with two covering the General Comment on article 31.

As identified in the literature review, the concept of child agency and what children bring themselves to their play, development and learning, is closely associated with a rights based perspective as well as social constructivist theories of child development. Throughout CfE 9 Scottish Executive, 2004), the concept of active learning, covered in the above section, covers this aspect of child agency. There is particular reference to child rights in Pre-Birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland's Children and Families (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010b), as part of the overarching principles of this guidance "...the Rights of the Child, Relationships, Responsive Care and Respect" (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010b, p. 27). While the Curriculum for Outdoor Learning (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010a) also mentions child rights and agency.

Strong guidance in terms of including both the UNCRC (UN,1989) child rights perspective and what the child themselves brings to their deep engagement in play and learning for development is the guidance on Building the Ambition: National Practice Guidance on Early Learning and Childcare Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (Scottish Government, 2014a). This is not surprising as the Act itself has a strong commitment to the UNCRC, alongside other national strategic policies, which also refer to and include children and young people's rights. This includes the National Play Strategy (Scottish Government, 2013b) and associated Action Plan (Scottish Government, 2013a), which is also centred on children's rights.

It is also understood that children are active agents in their own learning, through their own relationships and choices, in play and other activities.

" Early learning and childcare takes account of the assets, which a child brings themselves and also what is gained from interactions with important individuals, namely parents, carers and practitioners" ( Scottish Government, 2014a, p. 11).

"Young children are a discriminating group of learners. They are able to choose what they want to do, are keen and eager to learn, particularly when their own interests are being acknowledged. They are able to choose who they play with and take enjoyment from everyday experiences. We know from research that the level of involvement a child shows in their play and learning can be a key sign of the quality and effectiveness of what is being provided and tells us a great deal" (Scottish Government,2014,p. 76). This is in reference to the deeper levels of motivation, involvement and concentration, in meeting children's intrinsic need to explore, as explained in the Leuven wellbeing and involvement scales (Scottish Government, 2014a, p. 76).

The digital learning resources from "Glow" (see previous section) again are highly predicated on child agency and choice.

The Environment for Play and Learning

This is demonstrated throughout CfE and associated guidance, especially specific guidance and resources on outdoor learning, but also through setting out the importance of relationships, including engagement between children, their parents, practitioners and teachers themselves.

There is growing recognition of learning beyond the classroom in associated standards from GTS: "Use outdoor learning opportunities, including direct experiences of nature and other learning within and beyond the school boundary" (GTCS, 2012, p 16).

As part of such standards, there is now a strong awareness that there is a continued professional learning need for all teachers, and GTCS are able to accredit specific "Professional updates ". In September 2014, GTCS presented professional recognition in outdoor learning awards to teachers trained and developing good practice in this area (Teaching Scotland, 2014). There are possibilities here to develop other related professional awards, as; of course, part of the overall environment is the need for collaboration and continued professional development of teachers, staff and colleagues. The example of a supportive head teacher, in the focus group results, where the B.Ed. P1 teacher was able to introduce play based time, is an example of this.

The CfE experiences and outcomes indicators refer to:

"Numeracy; A rich and supportive learning environment will support a skilful mix of a variety of approaches, including: active learning and planned, purposeful play. Including the use of relevant, real-life and enjoyable contexts, which build upon children and young people's own experiences, frequent opportunities to communicate in a wide range of contexts, for relevant purposes and for real audiences within and beyond places of learning.

In social studies, effective learning and teaching will draw upon a variety of approaches including: use of relevant contexts and experiences familiar to children and young people, learning outdoors, field trips, visits and input by external contributors." (Scottish Government, CfE, 2004)

In Building the Curriculum 2; "All aspects of the curriculum can be explored outside. The sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors, the closeness to nature, the excitement most children feel, the wonder and curiosity all serve to enhance and stimulate learning" (Scottish Executive, 2007, p. 18).The design, planning and use of all space indoors and out in creating a positive environment for children is also emphasised (Scottish Executive, 2007, p 18).

The Curriculum for Excellence through outdoor learning (Leaning Teaching Scotland, 2010a): Is all about the outdoor environment both for play and learning and also looks at the broader environmental picture:

"Outdoor learning can deliver sustainable development education through initiatives such as working to improve biodiversity in the school grounds, visiting the local woods, exploring and engaging with the local community and developing a school travel plan" (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010, p.15).

Children must be able to explore, learn and experience the benefits of the outdoors, in both planned and spontaneous outdoor learning sessions. This can range from maximising the potential of the immediate school grounds, both for play and for planned outdoor learning opportunities, and utilising the surrounding neighbourhood, or planned day trips and longer residential opportunities, further afield.

The guidance also refers to outdoor learning in other Curriculum guidance papers such as Building the Curriculum 3: A framework for learning and teaching (Scottish Government, 2008). Outdoor learning is expected to be an integral part of the overall Curriculum a not something just "bolted on "Building the Curriculum 4: Skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work, (Scottish Government, 2009).

Pre-Birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland's Children and Families (Learning Teaching Scotland, 2010b)

The importance of outdoor play and physical activities and the development of social relationships through the play of babies and toddlers, with each other, caregivers and in their own interactions with their environment are stressed, while the centrality of play to development is confirmed. Further discussion covers assessing and managing risky play, ensuring that children are free to choose their own play, appreciating the intrinsic value of play, as well as developmental outcomes, ensuring access to good indoor and outdoor environments for play, and creating opportunities for heuristic play, such as treasure baskets.

Building the Ambition: National Practice Guidance on Early Learning and Childcare Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (Scottish Government, 2014a)

"Be aware of the immediate environment; be flexible in offering choices and carefully select resources which capture interest to create moments which spark children's play and, have in mind what individual children's current interest may be and provide props and spaces both inside and outside where children can play" (Scottish Government, 2014a, p. 31). Two case studies, with reflective questions are also provided in this section, one "Jamie's Nest" and the other "Ella's story" (Scottish Government, 2014a, pp 31-32)

The Open University Teaching assistant: E111 Supporting Learning in Primary Schools

Includes "Block 5: Play, creativity and learning Study topic 12 'Environments for learning' considers the importance of an imaginative and stimulating school physical and social environment to support learning and appropriate behaviour " ( Email correspondence, 2014).

Education Scotland - Active Learning and Play Resources in both the example tables outdoor learning was amongst the top theme under play (43) or active learning (174).


Contact

Email: Deborah Gallagher