Playing is central to children’s physical, mental, social and emotional health and wellbeing and is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Through play, children develop resilience and flexibility, contributing to physical and emotional wellbeing.
For children themselves, playing is one of the most important aspects of their lives.
“The right to play is a child’s first claim on the community. Play is nature’s training for life. No community can infringe that right without doing deep and enduring harm to the minds and bodies of its citizens.”
(David Lloyd George, 1925)
Children and young people need and are entitled to quality places and time for play as part of their everyday life within their own community.
Existing school facilities, in most cases, offer significant opportunities to satisfy not only the learning needs of all learners, but many of the social and recreational needs for the community. School buildings, their contents and grounds, often represent the largest single asset of communities.
It is important that schools are realistic about what they can and cannot provide in terms of developing and extending opportunities for playing out of teaching hours. Schools across the country have managed to do so, and this toolkit is designed to help us learn from their experience.
The biggest barrier facing many schools may not be a practical one. It may be fear of failure or a perception that this is very different from what schools do and so will be very complex and expensive. Some schools will face greater challenges than others; and those schools in communities with the greater needs may face the greatest challenges.
However, the potential benefits in terms of community engagement and wellbeing, the positive effects on children and young people’s health and happiness; and enhancement of the local sense of community make it worthwhile.
We start by acknowledging that the primary function of schools is to provide for the education of its pupils and the role of a head teacher is to ensure that the entire school site is fit for purpose at the start of the school day.
Email: Deborah Gallagher