Early learning and childcare - Out to Play: guidance for practitioners supporting children with additional support needs - section 11

Supplementary guidance (section 11) should be used alongside the main Out to Play document to support the delivery of outdoor experiences for children in early learning and childcare (ELC) with additional support needs.

Inclusive Approaches To Outdoor Playing And Learning

The Scottish Government has enshrined children’s right to play outdoors every day in its national Health and Social Care Standards: “As a child, I play outdoors every day and regularly explore a natural environment” (HSCS 1.32).

Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) recognises that children have different experiences in their lives, but that all children and young people, including those with additional support needs, have the right to receive the appropriate level of support from adults to allow them to grow up feeling loved, safe and respected and to realise their full potential.

The GIRFEC approach is designed to be flexible enough to support all children and families whatever their need, whenever they need it. It is about responding in a meaningful, supportive way, working with parents and carers wherever possible (Education Scotland, 2020: 37).

This section aims to reflect that flexibility, to support opportunities and respond meaningfully to children’s needs when playing and learning outdoors, and to value and trust the knowledge and skills of practitioners.

For some children natural, outdoor space has qualities that are particularly helpful to them:

  • Outdoor spaces are freer of the things that can be difficult or distressing for some children indoors, such as artificial lighting, school bells, buzzers and tannoys, high-pitched hand dryers, banging doors and crowded corridors.
  • Natural surroundings have been shown to have calming effects and may trigger fewer anxiety responses.
  • Many children find it easier to regulate emotion, to concentrate and to relax outdoors than indoors.

The commitment to a children’s rights approach

Inclusive education and inclusive play are mutually reinforcing. (Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2013: 10)

The Scottish Government is committed to recognising, respecting and promoting children’s rights, as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation)(Scotland) Bill was introduced to Parliament on 1 September 2020. Incorporation will ensure that children’s rights are afforded the highest protection and respect possible within the powers of the Scottish Parliament. Outdoor play opportunities underpin and contribute to the realisation of children’s rights through the CRC and the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

These rights include:

  • the right not to be discriminated against (CRC article 2)
  • the right to be heard (CRC article 12)
  • the rights of disabled children to be included and fully participate (CRC article 23 and CRPD articles 7, 9 and 30)
  • the rights to education (CRC articles 28, 29)
  • the right to play (CRC article 31).

Communicating your values

Your values are communicated through everyday practice, relationships and interactions. A short inclusion statement can be a helpful way to establish a shared understanding and act as a reference point. Your inclusion statement might state how you want people to feel as soon as they arrive:

The entrance should be inviting and exciting for children and visitors. This is your most important boundary line and it conveys a message about your vision, values and ethos. (Scottish Government, 2018: 30)

Things To Think About

How do you convey your vision, values and ethos to everyone who is part of the community of the setting?

Various user-friendly and accessible formats can be suitable for an inclusion statement, for example a simple word document or poster, a video of it being spoken aloud or signed, an easy-read version perhaps with symbols. Using more than one format also helps to demonstrate that everyone is welcome in your setting.


Email: outdoorelc@gov.scot

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